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 Best Realms Product Ever: The City of Ravens Bluff

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Kelcimer Posted - 12 Sep 2021 : 07:52:43
The City of Ravens Bluff (CoRB) is, in my opinion, the gold standard for what a campaign source should be. Just about every page is filled with useful information about the people, locations, and organizations of Ravens Bluff. It has a detailed account of each of the following: workable history of the city, recent events, mysterious secrets, a description of everyday stuff, more mysterious secrets, secret societies, the Wizards Guild, each of the deans, each temple, the fellowship of bards, the Silent Network, the various knightly orders, all the noble families, how the city government works, how law and order works, the laws, the merchant houses, all the other guilds, the game of masks, a massive 40 page walking tour of the city, and a description of notable places in the Vast. Each of these sections are absolutely amazing. There are so many interesting descriptions of NPCs. These pages excite the imagination! I have a sense of what is going on, why it is going on, and a suggestion for what could happen in the future. It is a place in transition. It feels alive! Whenever I was at a lack of an idea I'd just flip though CoRB and a new adventure idea would pop into my head!

The only parts that I did not find useful were the Monsters and the Magic items. I really have never understand why stats get crammed into a campaign source book. Stats are easy. A fleshed out city is another thing. But so what if those 9 pages are useless? Every other page is crammed full of useful info. Even with those 9 lesser pages, I cannot think of a single other gaming product that has such density of useful information per page.

Naturally I set many adventures in and around Ravens Bluff. My players dismantled the Viper Ring, the found the real Amber Lynn Theoden, they melted the Glacier of the White Worm, they got caught up in the regional rivalries between the Bluff and Calaunt, they accidentally burned down half of Hlintar, they crossed swords with the Leoduin's, they saved the church of Eilistraee, they partied hard at Balathorp Towers, some worked of the Knights of the Hawk, and some were part of the Mages Guild. It is the gravitational center of my campaign. Now granted, it plays to my strengths as a DM. I like city adventures and I like having a bunch of NPCs. I like the players being able to slowly build up the number of acquaintances and allies in a location. It can be oh so interesting when they fall back on those NPCs for even trivial things. When I finally did a Game of Masks as part of an adventure to cap off my second campaign, I was able to populate it with a massive number of NPCs that the players knew.

It does have a leg up on most other gaming products in that it collected a bunch of information created by a lot of DMs and players in the RPGA. If you had to set just a couple of developers to develop such a product from scratch, they would be hard pressed to achieve something close to the degree of concentrated usefulness on every page.

As I wound up reading more and more source books over the years, my admiration for CoRB grew. The only other Forgotten Realms product that is in the same ballpark of usefulness for me as a DM is the 2001 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting Book, which itself had a similar advantage of collecting and summarizing information generated over the previous decade. Because my game has wandered around the Realms a bit, I have probably opened the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting Book more than CoRB, but as far as which one I genuinely adore, there is no contest.

Best. Realms. Product. Ever.
25   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Kelcimer Posted - 19 Sep 2021 : 08:35:20
Hello George Krashos!

I do not want to distact from the good conversation in this thread by answering your question about my opinion of CoS:W here. CoS:W is a bit far from talking about the "City of Ravens Bluff" and really needs it's own thread.

You can find that here: http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=24145
sleyvas Posted - 18 Sep 2021 : 15:26:18
quote:
Originally posted by Steven Schend

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Eric,

Just curious on that one statement regarding boxed sets. Was TSR losing a lot of money with making everything in boxes? I had never really thought about that and always assumed I guess that going with a soft cover on the interior stuff made up for the cost of a box. Was I wrong or am I misunderstanding (because lord knows I do that a lot)? I did notice the shift from boxed sets with TSR to hardbacks with WotC, but I just thought it was the change of company and never put a lot of thought to it.



I'll answer for Eric on this one.

Boxed sets seemed to be the best bang for one's buck back in the day. As for how much I managed to squeeze into the City of Splendors box, I and my group leader Jeff Grubb sat down with the finance VP and horse traded preplanned components by cost and got as much in there as possible while still meeting what the money guys said was the maximum production cost at that time.

BTW we did this with Ruins of Undermountain as well, which is why it has those odd-sized cardsheets et al. We had the costs via the Spelljammer components at that time and just moved bits around until we got as much as we could while keeping the suits happy.

None of this could be done now due to changes in production and shipping, but in the early 90s I did what I could to get as much out to FR fans as possible.

Steven



Intereswting to know. Thank you. I always thought it was really cool all the little extra in like the horde boxed set, etc...
The Masked Mage Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 22:44:35
quote:
Originally posted by Steven Schend

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Eric,

Just curious on that one statement regarding boxed sets. Was TSR losing a lot of money with making everything in boxes? I had never really thought about that and always assumed I guess that going with a soft cover on the interior stuff made up for the cost of a box. Was I wrong or am I misunderstanding (because lord knows I do that a lot)? I did notice the shift from boxed sets with TSR to hardbacks with WotC, but I just thought it was the change of company and never put a lot of thought to it.



I'll answer for Eric on this one.

Boxed sets seemed to be the best bang for one's buck back in the day. As for how much I managed to squeeze into the City of Splendors box, I and my group leader Jeff Grubb sat down with the finance VP and horse traded preplanned components by cost and got as much in there as possible while still meeting what the money guys said was the maximum production cost at that time.

BTW we did this with Ruins of Undermountain as well, which is why it has those odd-sized cardsheets et al. We had the costs via the Spelljammer components at that time and just moved bits around until we got as much as we could while keeping the suits happy.

None of this could be done now due to changes in production and shipping, but in the early 90s I did what I could to get as much out to FR fans as possible.

Steven



I always wished they would bring those little cards back... The traps and doors and things added little tidbits of interest otherwise absent. Good work :)
Lord Karsus Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 18:25:12
-The trade map was a very cool inclusion. I feel like if I ran a Forgotten Realms game nowadays, it would definitely have a mercantile bend to it and would make use of that.
Steven Schend Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 16:12:55
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Eric,

Just curious on that one statement regarding boxed sets. Was TSR losing a lot of money with making everything in boxes? I had never really thought about that and always assumed I guess that going with a soft cover on the interior stuff made up for the cost of a box. Was I wrong or am I misunderstanding (because lord knows I do that a lot)? I did notice the shift from boxed sets with TSR to hardbacks with WotC, but I just thought it was the change of company and never put a lot of thought to it.



I'll answer for Eric on this one.

Boxed sets seemed to be the best bang for one's buck back in the day. As for how much I managed to squeeze into the City of Splendors box, I and my group leader Jeff Grubb sat down with the finance VP and horse traded preplanned components by cost and got as much in there as possible while still meeting what the money guys said was the maximum production cost at that time.

BTW we did this with Ruins of Undermountain as well, which is why it has those odd-sized cardsheets et al. We had the costs via the Spelljammer components at that time and just moved bits around until we got as much as we could while keeping the suits happy.

None of this could be done now due to changes in production and shipping, but in the early 90s I did what I could to get as much out to FR fans as possible.

Steven
Wooly Rupert Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 14:53:20
quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur

There was a poster map in the 3E FRCS. It was a 2 page by 4 page fold out so no assembly required. It was interestingly glued in such that it did not need to be removed to be unfolded and used. There are two more nice maps in that FRCS, a 2 page spread of Trade Routes and Resources that I often feel people overlook and a one page Regions map that sometimes is referenced as a Political map.

If I remember right there were some complaints on the scale of 3E maps? But recently remember comparing a couple of distance between maps of different editions and things weren't horribly off. The art style was very lovely and very easily read.



Pretty sure the complaints were on the 4E maps, because someone at WotC decided there was too much open space on the maps and that it needed to be trimmed out.
Gelcur Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 14:05:12
There was a poster map in the 3E FRCS. It was a 2 page by 4 page fold out so no assembly required. It was interestingly glued in such that it did not need to be removed to be unfolded and used. There are two more nice maps in that FRCS, a 2 page spread of Trade Routes and Resources that I often feel people overlook and a one page Regions map that sometimes is referenced as a Political map.

If I remember right there were some complaints on the scale of 3E maps? But recently remember comparing a couple of distance between maps of different editions and things weren't horribly off. The art style was very lovely and very easily read.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 17 Sep 2021 : 00:19:36
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Hmmm, yeah, the multiple poster maps in color was a big thing, and I guess even though occasionally we'd see a poster map in a hardcover with some kind of weird glue... that was rare. I forget, did the 3e campaign set even have some maps in it? I want to say yes, but part of me thinks there was something sent with dragon magazine.



There was a big, four-poster map spread across four issues of Dragon. I can't recall if there was one in the 3E book or not, but I would think there would have been.
sleyvas Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 22:00:05
Hmmm, yeah, the multiple poster maps in color was a big thing, and I guess even though occasionally we'd see a poster map in a hardcover with some kind of weird glue... that was rare. I forget, did the 3e campaign set even have some maps in it? I want to say yes, but part of me thinks there was something sent with dragon magazine.
The Masked Mage Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 21:50:43
Anyone that likes Ravens Bluff should go get the Polyhedron Magazines.

All those books were pulled almost verbatim from the articles, plus you get all the hundreds of write-ins which add so much. The Living City was a long term vibrant project.

Now, as far as the best realms product ever... that is much harder, but I would have to go with the OG Undermountain. They've been trying to duplicate that amazing box for 30 years and failing over and over.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 21:33:33
Most boxed sets were multiple books (usually 2 or 3), multiple poster-sized maps (2 to 4, usually, though City System was 10!), cardstock sheets (like 12-20ish of those), and loose-leaf pages for the Monstrous Compendium.

That's multiple covers, multiple books to assemble, a lot of colored ink, the box itself, and assembly of the whole shebang.

I don't know the exact numbers, obviously, but it wouldn't surprise me to see that boxed sets and hardcovers were, at the very least, comparable in terms of production costs.

On top of all that, the boxed sets usually had a lower price tag than the later hardcover books. I'd not be surprised to learn the prices were kept lower than they should have been and that this greatly affected the profit.
sleyvas Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 20:52:38
Eric,

Just curious on that one statement regarding boxed sets. Was TSR losing a lot of money with making everything in boxes? I had never really thought about that and always assumed I guess that going with a soft cover on the interior stuff made up for the cost of a box. Was I wrong or am I misunderstanding (because lord knows I do that a lot)? I did notice the shift from boxed sets with TSR to hardbacks with WotC, but I just thought it was the change of company and never put a lot of thought to it.
ericlboyd Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 17:39:08
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello George Krashos!

So I'm looking at CoS:W and I see you, Eric Boyd, and Tom Costa all worked on it.

I am still not used to the whole "a bunch of the people who designed the stuff are on the forum" thing. I was not expecting that when I went looking for a Forgotten Realms forum.

Just to say, I don't want to offend, but I'm going to call it like I see it.

Eric mentioned on the another thread that often deadlines were ridiculously short during that period. I also assume that there were certain decisions about what to include that were out of the hands of the development team. I am sure those were significant factors to the quality of the product.



Deadlines are always short. I'm a slow writer.

Opinions are fine. I don't take offense easily.

It is helpful to understand the context sometimes. After Steven got away with the 2e boxed set ("got away with" is the right expression, with respect to TSR's ability to make a profit), it was never going to be possible to update the whole thing in a 3.5e product. After Ed did VGtW, that was even more untrue.

I tried to balance providing new lore (since many people who bought it already had CoS boxed set and VGtW) with making it standalone. I think it works standalone, as it gives you maps, a few places, some NPCs, some orgs, a history of the place, and lots of new content. It has a balance of fluff and crunch, which was what WoTC wanted at the time. (I would ditch the crunch for more fluff, but that's me.) Given the timeframe (1373 DR, not 1357 DR or 1368 DR), I also tried to update some storylines, add in the storylines implied by the novels, and add in some new storylines. It clearly can be complemented by CoS boxed set (which did much more detail on the nobles and other NPCs) and VGtW.

Based on reactions from folks, I think most people who talked to me about it found it useful, but clearly not all. Sorry it didn't work for you.

--Eric

P.S. If you want more content, I wrote a 3-part adventure set in Waterdeep for Dungeon #126-#128. Obviously there's Undermountain (RoU1, RoU2, the three Undermountain adventures by Steven, the Expedition to Undermountain book, the Dragon articles, the novels, etc.) as well. I also wrote 2 web enhancements which I would have added to the book if they had given me another 32 page signature.
sleyvas Posted - 16 Sep 2021 : 13:07:23
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

See, I'm not convinced that even the major NPCs needed full write-ups. If someone is not meant to be fought, why waste time listing all their weapon skills and such? And if someone is meant to be fought, it doesn't matter than they're an excellent cook and an enthusiastic but mediocre poet.

Again, let the DM build what he or she needs.

As for the PrCs, I liked some of them -- but some were filler, and some were round pegs in square holes. I'd've rather seen fewer PrCs that were better written and that fit better, rather than the apparent approach of "Marketing says we need two more, you got anything handy?"



On the prestige class thing, I look at it like I look at feats from that era... sometimes people start something and think it will turn out well, and it doesn't. Sometimes the writers are just too close to it and don't see the flaws. Sometimes their coworkers, who are their friends, don't want to be all judgy.... and sometimes it is just laziness. Everyone's human.

For me, in regards the major NPCs, it's a preference thing to try and curtail their "Marysue"ness AND to kind of give those who would write about them also something to help them really differentiate between them based on HOW they're are designed. For instance, if the Simbul were written up to have craft contingent spell, spell mantle, magical artisan (craft contingent spell), reactive counterspell, improved counterspell, and the archmage counterspell ability and she were shown to be building wizard AND sorcerer AND possibly even a third class..... whereas perhaps Alustriel is shown as building say cleric and wizard and focusing on things to enhance constant wards instead via persistent spell.

TO NOTE: I also would not mind if the people doing such work didn't put some kind of disclaimer that "this character build may not 100% match the rules as written because the character has recieved X additional feat from Y past event, and this was a divine gift", etc... I know some people would mind that, but there's always been rules written that this is a perfectly valid form of treasure to give players instead of money and items is abilities instead.


When you say the next question of "why did I like this", the answer is I REALLY REALLY liked reading spell battles that made actual game sense. I get that some will say that that just encourages players to fight those NPC's that weren't meant to be fought, but honestly, I look at it and go ... it can also be used with some slight modifications to make a really powerful NPC villain where you change the name as well. I also get why some people like the 5e motto for monster design where they just throw abilities on, but personally that's one of the things about 5e that I despise. Again, I can get giving some "extra" abilities here and there to make someone different, but I like the concept of building them up using roughly the same ruleset. It's a preference thing.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 23:57:09
See, I'm not convinced that even the major NPCs needed full write-ups. If someone is not meant to be fought, why waste time listing all their weapon skills and such? And if someone is meant to be fought, it doesn't matter than they're an excellent cook and an enthusiastic but mediocre poet.

Again, let the DM build what he or she needs.

As for the PrCs, I liked some of them -- but some were filler, and some were round pegs in square holes. I'd've rather seen fewer PrCs that were better written and that fit better, rather than the apparent approach of "Marketing says we need two more, you got anything handy?"
sleyvas Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 22:32:51
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello George Krashos!

So I'm looking at CoS:W and I see you, Eric Boyd, and Tom Costa all worked on it.

I am still not used to the whole "a bunch of the people who designed the stuff are on the forum" thing. I was not expecting that when I went looking for a Forgotten Realms forum.

Just to say, I don't want to offend, but I'm going to call it like I see it.

Eric mentioned on the another thread that often deadlines were ridiculously short during that period. I also assume that there were certain decisions about what to include that were out of the hands of the development team. I am sure those were significant factors to the quality of the product.




Psssttt, don't worry about talking about a project just because George, Eric, Steven, Tom, etc... wrote it. I think they have thick skin, and most of them were fans back when we were as well. Just be willing to support what you say around here, try not to bash without reason, and sometimes you're gonna be right and sometimes you're gonna be wrong.... and sometimes peeps will disagree on who is right and who is wrong afterwards. When you do say something stupid (and you will, and as I have... daily....), just own your stupidity. Sometimes though it is the willingness to speak up and say something that improves things, but be aware that you speak kindly at the same time (hey Wooly, quit giving me the stink eye.. I try!).

You'll be surprised at how many people around here don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but different people are really good at certain things, and its the love of the realms and the willingness to discuss that tends to make this place usable.

And now I'm sounding like a cantankerous old fart, so I'm gonna go read another thread.

sleyvas Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 22:12:16
quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur

I don't necessarily disagree with you Wooly. Likely the abbreviated stat block would done just fine for most minor NPCs, CoS:W is jam packed with these. Since I have CoS:W open right now, I see some great examples:

"Tammert Landral (LG male Illuskan human wizard 8, a magically brilliant youth)"
"Maresta Rhanbuck (CG female half-moon elf wizard 12, a “motherly whirlwind” who runs the Tower alongside Laeral)"

If you abbreviated gender and race or left it off, Illuskan would imply human, there would be room for alphabet soup of important stats.


Maybe something more elaborate for characters more likely to see use/combat but still "minimal", say roughly 1/4 of a page (half a column), listing important feats and magic items. Looks like, Sample Griffon Rider, City Guard, Watch Patrol with Captain, Sergeant and Watchman took up roughly 1 full page all together.


Then a full page for the Big Bad in an adventure campaign or for your "star" NPCs. Laeral Silverhand probably deserves every single bit of her explored Mistakes in these large blocks were very sad. Mistakes do happen though hopefully less often, what bugged me even more were the under spec'd NPCs. We often joke that El or whoever is supposed to be very powerful but often the NPCs just weren't built that way. Whether it was rules limitations, or that it was early days so all the neat things weren't out yet, or that designer did not specialize in making builds. A neat idea was all the Web Enhancements in 3.5E. Maybe full page NPCs could have been pushed only online and could have gotten re-stat'd over time as new material came out, obviously maintaining the right lore flavor for the character. The books could have the abridged versions.

I'm 100% with you on monsters needing more details. I personally like blurbs I can read word for word to my players that paints a nice picture. And obviously anatomy, motivation, culture all great too. Some of the later books in 3.5E added Skill Checks to gain info on creatures. But definitely needed more. I will also say monsters tended to get boring in 3.5E. I don't know if this was normal in 4E but one Dungeon adventure I read had a monster that stuck out. A Hill Giant Cook, who fought with a meat tenderizer, threw barrels on a cool down (like dragon's breath) that had a random chance to blind(flour), slow(honey), fall prone(oil), or do nothing(water). They also had a once per encounter action that was Scalding Cauldron which was them pushing over a pot of boiling food, basically minor fireball. They were just reskinned basic abilities but it did go a long way to paint a flavorful picture in my head and likely my players.


Part of my fun in D&D is building PCs and NPCs. Not to be broken but to be good and flavorful. And one of those tools to do this is PrCs. I tend to use classes and PrCs loosely if a player or I could make a valid argument that something like PrC X existed and would do this sort of thing in the Faerun, we'd relabel it and carry on. I had similar feeling for cross setting material, a player wanted a cool spell from Greyhawk in Faerun, roll me Knowledge (the planes). I agree there were likely too many PrCs, I honestly would have preferred they had tried to capture this uniqueness/variety through better feats. Feats were a great concept that really made 3.0E shine when it came out but quickly we realized there were just bad choices. *cough* Toughness +3 hp *cough* Which sort of brings me full circle to stat blocks. "Bahb Silvernoun (NG m Turami F7, DEX17 CHA16; Imp.Init, Imp.TWF)" is to the point and paints me a picture that we are probably talking about this guy.


3.5E is still my preferred rule set but I am willing to admit improvements could have been made.



Just want to add "ditto" to my views on all of what you just said. Especially the part about being sad to see so many great NPC's with horrible builds just because options weren't out yet, and wishing they had put out an update, even if online.
TomCosta Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 21:10:14
One challenge with COS:W was trying to do something additive without completely recopying what had already been done several times before. I take no offense on it not being the product for you. For my part, I find it far more useful as a playing guide about what Waterdeep is like than most of the other Waterdeep products. Granted it lacks the overt repetition of this tavern is here and is like this, which has its uses as well, but were ably done in Volo's Guide and the 2E City of Splendors.
Kelcimer Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 09:36:04
Hello George Krashos!

So I'm looking at CoS:W and I see you, Eric Boyd, and Tom Costa all worked on it.

I am still not used to the whole "a bunch of the people who designed the stuff are on the forum" thing. I was not expecting that when I went looking for a Forgotten Realms forum.

Just to say, I don't want to offend, but I'm going to call it like I see it.

Eric mentioned on the another thread that often deadlines were ridiculously short during that period. I also assume that there were certain decisions about what to include that were out of the hands of the development team. I am sure those were significant factors to the quality of the product.
Kelcimer Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 08:45:18
Hello TomCosta!

quote:
Originally posted by TomCosta

So Kelcimer, I have to take back some of what I said. There are still too many silly names, but I think I conflated my memory of the original Polyhedron articles with how it ended up in City of Ravens Bluff. Ed did a better job than I remembered culling the worst bits.



That's cool. I fully grant that there are silly names in there. I consider that part of it's charm. It's a feature, not a bug.

Like, what kind of name is "Armor & Vengeance" for an adventuring party? It's stupid! But there is nothing to say that people of Faerun can't be stupid as well. And it is a memorable name. I actually used it in a game one time for the previous adventuring party that dealt with a particular problem and really because it was a memorable name. I kinda think that it is a good idea to have stupid/corny names in a game so that the cooler names that are also in the game have something to contrast against.
Kelcimer Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 08:33:39
Hello George Krashos!

quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

You don’t say why you thought CoS:W was a steaming pile of ordure. Care to expand?

— George Krashos



That is going to take some words to fully convey. I don’t want to go off of just my memories, so I am going to do due diligence and pull the book out of storage so as to give it a fresh look. I also have some old notes from a discussion about this from back in the day. Yes, I will expand after I have looked at them.
Gelcur Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 06:36:26
I don't necessarily disagree with you Wooly. Likely the abbreviated stat block would done just fine for most minor NPCs, CoS:W is jam packed with these. Since I have CoS:W open right now, I see some great examples:

"Tammert Landral (LG male Illuskan human wizard 8, a magically brilliant youth)"
"Maresta Rhanbuck (CG female half-moon elf wizard 12, a “motherly whirlwind” who runs the Tower alongside Laeral)"

If you abbreviated gender and race or left it off, Illuskan would imply human, there would be room for alphabet soup of important stats.


Maybe something more elaborate for characters more likely to see use/combat but still "minimal", say roughly 1/4 of a page (half a column), listing important feats and magic items. Looks like, Sample Griffon Rider, City Guard, Watch Patrol with Captain, Sergeant and Watchman took up roughly 1 full page all together.


Then a full page for the Big Bad in an adventure campaign or for your "star" NPCs. Laeral Silverhand probably deserves every single bit of her explored Mistakes in these large blocks were very sad. Mistakes do happen though hopefully less often, what bugged me even more were the under spec'd NPCs. We often joke that El or whoever is supposed to be very powerful but often the NPCs just weren't built that way. Whether it was rules limitations, or that it was early days so all the neat things weren't out yet, or that designer did not specialize in making builds. A neat idea was all the Web Enhancements in 3.5E. Maybe full page NPCs could have been pushed only online and could have gotten re-stat'd over time as new material came out, obviously maintaining the right lore flavor for the character. The books could have the abridged versions.

I'm 100% with you on monsters needing more details. I personally like blurbs I can read word for word to my players that paints a nice picture. And obviously anatomy, motivation, culture all great too. Some of the later books in 3.5E added Skill Checks to gain info on creatures. But definitely needed more. I will also say monsters tended to get boring in 3.5E. I don't know if this was normal in 4E but one Dungeon adventure I read had a monster that stuck out. A Hill Giant Cook, who fought with a meat tenderizer, threw barrels on a cool down (like dragon's breath) that had a random chance to blind(flour), slow(honey), fall prone(oil), or do nothing(water). They also had a once per encounter action that was Scalding Cauldron which was them pushing over a pot of boiling food, basically minor fireball. They were just reskinned basic abilities but it did go a long way to paint a flavorful picture in my head and likely my players.


Part of my fun in D&D is building PCs and NPCs. Not to be broken but to be good and flavorful. And one of those tools to do this is PrCs. I tend to use classes and PrCs loosely if a player or I could make a valid argument that something like PrC X existed and would do this sort of thing in the Faerun, we'd relabel it and carry on. I had similar feeling for cross setting material, a player wanted a cool spell from Greyhawk in Faerun, roll me Knowledge (the planes). I agree there were likely too many PrCs, I honestly would have preferred they had tried to capture this uniqueness/variety through better feats. Feats were a great concept that really made 3.0E shine when it came out but quickly we realized there were just bad choices. *cough* Toughness +3 hp *cough* Which sort of brings me full circle to stat blocks. "Bahb Silvernoun (NG m Turami F7, DEX17 CHA16; Imp.Init, Imp.TWF)" is to the point and paints me a picture that we are probably talking about this guy.


3.5E is still my preferred rule set but I am willing to admit improvements could have been made.
Wooly Rupert Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 01:44:41
quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur

I know many did not like how much crunch there was to fluff in 3.5E but personally I liked that there was an effort to balance it. It helps as a DM to not only have lore but to be able to pick up a book and grab a creature, spell or even an area like a sewer and just have all the rules I need right there on the page.



My issue with the crunch in 3.x was the full-page stat blocks for NPCs. I was a huge fan of the 2E abbreviated stats, such as "Bahb Silvernoun (NG hm F7 DEX16 CHA16)". Obviously that's a made-up example, but it follows the actual stats of the era. We know the important things right there: alignment, race, level, and any really good ability scores. Space isn't wasted on that NPC if I don't need him for anything, but if I do, I can give him whatever skills and equipment suit my needs.

I recall a couple of those full-page stat blocks that had errors in them, like one NPC that was described as being an excellent dancer, but he had absolutely no ranks devoted to the requisite skills.

For monsters, 3.x went the wrong way, in my opinion. They gave one or two lines of description -- which often didn't actually detail the appearance of the monster, only what it was doing -- and no information at all beyond what was needed for combat. Monsters became little bundles of XP and HP, just sitting around waiting to be slain. In 2E, by contrast, monsters often got an entire page, with information about appearance, grouping, lairs, particular behaviors, and what uses could be made from their body parts after killing them. A DM could actually run a monster in 2E, as opposed to reading off whatever variation of "it attacks you" 3.x gave. And that section on body parts meant that PCs could have reason to seek out particular critters, instead of monsters simply existing as obstacles for PCs.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the fact that every single book had to have Prestige Classes -- especially since some of those classes felt like they were shoehorned into particular products. The Justice of Weald and Woe, for example, from Champions of Ruin -- they went out of their way to tie this one to the Eldreth Veluuthra, but there is absolutely nothing about the class itself that suggests this connection. The class would be an excellent fit for any elf particularly dedicated to the defense of their homeland. It wouldn't have to be for unsavory things or killing humans as the description of the PrC says, they could just as easily be scouts picking off orcs and goblins who get too close to elven borders.
TomCosta Posted - 15 Sep 2021 : 01:22:23
So Kelcimer, I have to take back some of what I said. There are still too many silly names, but I think I conflated my memory of the original Polyhedron articles with how it ended up in City of Ravens Bluff. Ed did a better job than I remembered culling the worst bits.
Gelcur Posted - 14 Sep 2021 : 23:43:47
I think a lot of this is matter of opinion. I am currently running a quest in Waterdeep, a highly modified version of Dragon Heist. And I have 6 source books of various editions that I am using to help me run it, Waterdeep is a VERY large subject every scrap and tidbit helps.

I'm still mulling over what I think the "Best Realms RPG Product" is. But I will defend CoS:W, I still remember getting the physical book in my hands and being thrilled leafing through it.


  • It starts with the wrap around cover art that I can show a player who is entering Waterdeep for the first time.

  • It uses monsters from previous 3E products, Monster Manuals, other Realms Products. AND it has Substitutions for them in case you don't have them, nice touch that they didn't have to waste half a page on but they did. Plus they made use of other rules from other products, like guilds.*

  • Listing city demographics, including NPC ethnicity. I don't know if it was the first book to list this for nearly all NPCs but it was prominent enough to really get me to think about it in my home campaign.

  • Then there is a list of consolidated building locations/map from various previous products.**

  • The sewer map that is overlaid onto an actual image of the city so it is easier to tell what everything ran under.***

  • Lots of info not only on the Deep but also on Undermountain and the sewers and linkages, yes much was reprinted but there were also additions, elaborating on previous lore (one example see Minor Artifact "The Rod of Lathander"). Plus having it consolidated in one place was useful.

  • The Web Enhancement with all the Noble Houses and a pronunciation guide, plus other great data!

  • Then there is the other Web Enhancement that detailed the Environs around Waterdeep.
* The other product that did this fantastically well was Power of Faerun, reaching back into so many other products to draw upon rules and classes.

** I will say it is difficult finding buildings listed a few pages in either direction of the map where they appear. Maybe this was an unfixable problem.

*** Though I love a proper sewer overlay onto the streets, the other day I noticed a couple of issues. The thinnest lines are actually grates, as seen in the 2E version, guessing some sort of artist mistake. And the locations are all a bit off, the old Interactive atlas actually had the sewer access spots painted in if you zoomed in enough. Though the text does say that some of the features are distorted.


I know many did not like how much crunch there was to fluff in 3.5E but personally I liked that there was an effort to balance it. It helps as a DM to not only have lore but to be able to pick up a book and grab a creature, spell or even an area like a sewer and just have all the rules I need right there on the page.

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