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Kelcimer
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USA
98 Posts

Posted - 12 Sep 2021 :  07:52:43  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
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.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 12 Sep 2021 07:53:12

Lord Karsus
Great Reader

USA
3621 Posts

Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  00:44:27  Show Profile Send Lord Karsus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
-I remember a lot of questionable names, but that's really about it.

(A Tri-Partite Arcanist Who Has Forgotten More Than Most Will Ever Know)

Elves of Faerûn
Vol I- The Elves of Faerûn
Vol. III- Spells of the Elves
Vol. VI- Mechanical Compendium
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Kelcimer
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USA
98 Posts

Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  02:56:13  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I make no contest about questionable names. There were a lot of different people making names that wound up in the book. There is even a part of the Walking Tour whereby the tour guide comments on how there are X number of adventures in the city that go by the name "Shadow". I consider that all to be a plus.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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35345 Posts

Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  03:19:43  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I won't say this is or isn't the best product, because that's obviously a matter of opinion... But for me, I prefer something wider in scope. I consider the deity books, Volo's Guide to All Things Magical (formerly a suppressed work ), and Cloak & Dagger to be among the best Realms products we ever got.

I love Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, as well -- its on-the-ground approach made the city come alive for me, and converted me from casual Realms fan to Realms junkie. But as much as I love it, its narrow focus on one place keeps me from ranking it as highly as the other stuff I mentioned.

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Kelcimer
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USA
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Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  07:02:06  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with you that "Cloak and Dagger" and the deity books (I am assuming you mean Faiths and Avatars, Powers and Pantheons, and Demi-Human Deities) are all very good products. Loads of information, never possible to use it all, but useful pretty much wherever you might be in the Realms.

I looked at a PDF for "Volo's Guide to Waterdeep" and a limited PDF of "Volo's Guide to All Things Magical" real quick so as to try and form an opinion.

"Volo's Guide to Waterdeep" looks very good for as a walking tour, but it is missing all the other information that that I would want to know about Waterdeep. If it had all that other info, then I think it would be comparable to CoRB in quality.

Just being able to look at the Index page of "Volo's Guide to All Things Magical", it looks like it might be similar to "Magic of Faerun" in some regards ("Magic of Faerun" reprinted some of the material, I assume?) and it looks like it is very heavy on magical artifacts. Not as useful, I should think, as "Cloak and Dagger" and the deity books, but it is good to have a solid book of artifacts in the collection.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  12:31:04  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I love Volo's Guide to Waterdeep because more than any other source, it covers what PCs in Waterdeep will encounter. Any shop, any inn, any other place of interest -- it says what its like, the quality of the food, secrets of the place and the people there... Between that and either the 3E book or the 2E boxed set, you could run an entire campaign in Waterdeep. One book to cover the on-the-ground stuff, one to give the broader overview, and you're set.

I like Volo's Guide to All Things Magical not only because of artifacts and new magic in there, but also because of the section on magical properties of materials. Something regrettably lacking in later editions of D&D is the idea that certain types of item have more magical potential than others. Rules as written, any stick can be used for a wand of lightning bolt, but I love the idea that the wood taken from a tree struck by lightning and then soaked in behir ichor would make a more powerful wand. The magical properties section of Volo's Guide to All Things Magical has a lot of potential -- your wizard character wants to make some magical item, don't just say "okay, it's done", make him gather all the proper materials, which could be an adventure or two in and of itself, and then make something truly noteworthy. Rules-wise, I'd have any item crafted with the right materials automatically be more powerful than a generic "I cast enchant an item and some spells and I'm done" type of item.

This is why I love lore and setting books over books of crunch or pre-written adventures: a good book of lore can give you dozens of ideas for adventures or campaigns. I'd rather have that than a single pre-written adventure.

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questing gm
Learned Scribe

Malaysia
173 Posts

Posted - 13 Sep 2021 :  16:07:08  Show Profile  Visit questing gm's Homepage Send questing gm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
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!


I haven't read City of Ravens Bluff yet, but from what I'm gathering what you liked about its content, I think the City of Splendor boxed set also has pretty much the same things to like about it.

Edited by - questing gm on 13 Sep 2021 16:08:28
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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
778 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  02:09:19  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ed did an amazing job taking a lot of the crud from organized play of the day and making it more palatable, but I still have a hard time getting past all of the dross that got included (not Ed's fault).
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Kelcimer
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USA
98 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  06:14:41  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello questing gm!

quote:
Originally posted by questing gm I haven't read City of Ravens Bluff yet, but from what I'm gathering what you liked about its content, I think the City of Splendor boxed set also has pretty much the same things to like about it.


I am skeptical. I know that in 3.x they kinda just took a bunch of 2e material and repackaged it. Which is fair because you don't want to ditch existing material, but I think they leaned into that too much, generating too many low calorie Realms books in 3.x. "City of Splendors: Waterdeep" was a horrible, horrible product. The natural question is, if there was that much good material in the "City of Splendor" boxed set, then, with how they repurposed 2e material, why did none of it make it into "City of Splendors: Waterdeep"?

Man, "City of Splendors: Waterdeep" was bad. Not just the worst Forgotten Realms product I ever bought, but the worst gaming product I ever purchased. In my third campaign I had my players on a quest going all across Forgotten Realms so that I would actually deal with various locations. One of the locations they were to go to was Waterdeep. Waterdeep had a big reputation and I was looking forward to dealing with the city. I already had my players on route to the Waterdeep when I purchased CoS:W, to work on the adventure. The book was billed as the be all end all to Waterdeep. Turns out it was such a useless product that I wound up capping the adventure by nuking Waterdeep in an Akira like explosion. A very round Bay of Waterdeep can be seen from space. Good times.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 14 Sep 2021 06:43:21
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Kelcimer
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USA
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Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  06:25:05  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello TomCosta!

quote:
Originally posted by TomCosta Ed did an amazing job taking a lot of the crud from organized play of the day and making it more palatable, but I still have a hard time getting past all of the dross that got included (not Ed's fault).


I am sure he had a mountain of material to sift through and of varying quality. What parts or aspects did you consider dross?
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
6264 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  14:25:13  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You don’t say why you thought CoS:W was a steaming pile of ordure. Care to expand?

— George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10657 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  15:27:58  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello questing gm!

quote:
Originally posted by questing gm I haven't read City of Ravens Bluff yet, but from what I'm gathering what you liked about its content, I think the City of Splendor boxed set also has pretty much the same things to like about it.


I am skeptical. I know that in 3.x they kinda just took a bunch of 2e material and repackaged it. Which is fair because you don't want to ditch existing material, but I think they leaned into that too much, generating too many low calorie Realms books in 3.x. "City of Splendors: Waterdeep" was a horrible, horrible product. The natural question is, if there was that much good material in the "City of Splendor" boxed set, then, with how they repurposed 2e material, why did none of it make it into "City of Splendors: Waterdeep"?





I've never compared the two sets, nor the various raven's bluff supplements, but regarding the "copying" of 2e material into 3e... there were some factors to consider

A) Most people (in general) who were buying the 3e materials were former 2e people. There was an active feeling that I noted amongst people of "I don't want to see the same stuff repackaged and sold to me yet again for this new edition". As a result, it seems to me, 3e had a lot more crunch and a bit less lore, mainly because people generally had that lore.

B) The authors between 2e and 3e changed, so some of the things are naturally lost. Some new ideas were in play, and the train of thought that was in someone's mind in a prior edition didn't translate into the new writer's interest or he didn't "catch the drift".

I say all this because... for instance, there's a lot of differences between spellbound and unapproachable east when you delve the lore and other similar products, so I have no doubt the same happened with the Waterdeep lore. As always, read what you like, take from it what you want, and make a campaign how you will.

I will say there were some Raven's Bluff supplements that I absolutely loved concepts from. For instance, from the Port of Raven's Bluff product, I absolutely loved the idea of "Spike McGurk's Flotilla of Death". The imagery of tasloi flying on giant gooney birds and landing on ships that are like miniature "aircraft carriers" was just fun. As a result, one of the things I was considering doing with Katashaka was having some folks who had seen his "flotilla" taking the idea and making a similar setup... but using giant parrots, giant toucans, giant flamingos, etc... and different humanoids to ride them (in theory could have size medium birds as well with size small humanoids).

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas

Edited by - sleyvas on 14 Sep 2021 15:34:44
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questing gm
Learned Scribe

Malaysia
173 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  16:30:25  Show Profile  Visit questing gm's Homepage Send questing gm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Man, "City of Splendors: Waterdeep" was bad. Not just the worst Forgotten Realms product I ever bought, but the worst gaming product I ever purchased. In my third campaign I had my players on a quest going all across Forgotten Realms so that I would actually deal with various locations. One of the locations they were to go to was Waterdeep. Waterdeep had a big reputation and I was looking forward to dealing with the city. I already had my players on route to the Waterdeep when I purchased CoS:W, to work on the adventure. The book was billed as the be all end all to Waterdeep. Turns out it was such a useless product that I wound up capping the adventure by nuking Waterdeep in an Akira like explosion. A very round Bay of Waterdeep can be seen from space. Good times.



If my memory served me well, I think they drastically cut down much lore and sections for the 3.x book (which I don't think I would recommend that highly). But I haven't really compared the two to know what's removed or revised.

Between the two though, I would go back to the boxed set any day for a highly detailed look at the city, supplemented even better with Volo's Guide and the North sourcebooks.
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Gelcur
Senior Scribe

404 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2021 :  23:43:47  Show Profile  Visit Gelcur's Homepage Send Gelcur a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

The party come to a town befallen by hysteria

Rogue: So what's in the general store?
DM: What are you looking for?
Rogue: Whatevers in the store.
DM: Like what?
Rogue: Everything.
DM: There is a lot of stuff.
Rogue: Is there a cart outside?
DM: (rolls) Yes.
Rogue: We'll take it all, we may need it for the greater good.

Edited by - Gelcur on 14 Sep 2021 23:48:28
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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
778 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  01:22:23  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35345 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  01:44:41  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

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Gelcur
Senior Scribe

404 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  06:36:26  Show Profile  Visit Gelcur's Homepage Send Gelcur a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

The party come to a town befallen by hysteria

Rogue: So what's in the general store?
DM: What are you looking for?
Rogue: Whatevers in the store.
DM: Like what?
Rogue: Everything.
DM: There is a lot of stuff.
Rogue: Is there a cart outside?
DM: (rolls) Yes.
Rogue: We'll take it all, we may need it for the greater good.

Edited by - Gelcur on 15 Sep 2021 06:38:34
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Kelcimer
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USA
98 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  08:33:39  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 15 Sep 2021 08:46:03
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Kelcimer
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Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  08:45:18  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 15 Sep 2021 08:45:43
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Kelcimer
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USA
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Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  09:36:04  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 15 Sep 2021 21:44:31
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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
778 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  21:10:14  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10657 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  22:12:16  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10657 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  22:32:51  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.


Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35345 Posts

Posted - 15 Sep 2021 :  23:57:09  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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?"

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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10657 Posts

Posted - 16 Sep 2021 :  13:07:23  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas

Edited by - sleyvas on 16 Sep 2021 13:17:26
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ericlboyd
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
1876 Posts

Posted - 16 Sep 2021 :  17:39:08  Show Profile  Visit ericlboyd's Homepage Send ericlboyd a Private Message  Reply with Quote
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.

--
http://www.ericlboyd.com/dnd/

Edited by - ericlboyd on 16 Sep 2021 17:40:22
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