Game: Masterwork Maps: Temples and Shrines
Review Dated: 6th, November 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
It’s been more than two years since a review of Temples and Shrines first appeared on GameWyrd. Darkfuries have put these two years to good use, their product range has expanded, they’ve moved from HTML products, to PDF and to paper and they’ve built on their reputation.
The original Temples and Shrines was an HTML bundle of maps. It just meant that you flicked between the cartography in the same way as you’d navigate a web site. This version of Temples and Shrines is less hi-tech but more familiar with gamers. The paperback version is greatly enhanced; we’ve fully detailed NPCs (d20 system 3.0 and notes for 3.5) and even the maps have been spruced up with more detail.
I don’t think the two versions of the products are mutually exclusive though. The great advantage of the HTML edition is that you could print out what you needed for your adventure and slide it seamlessly into your notes. You could print out the floor plans move miniatures around on them. If needs be you could edit things electronically to suit your needs. You can’t do with the book.
Castles and Keeps has seen life as a paper product but there’s difference. Castles and Keeps are large buildings, often very large. Temples and Shrines aren’t so large. Whereas the small scale maps suffice for the large buildings, helping to give a clear picture of what the impressive structure looks like, the smaller buildings like the shrines and chapels would be better off, I think, with larger scale maps. I’m glad I have the HTML version, I’ll continue to use the print offs it gives me.
I’m glad I have the book too. Whereas the HTML version can be used with forethought the book provides a better panic response. Given the presence of NPCs in Masterwork Maps: Temples and Shrines it is possible to quickly whisk up an encounter or a delay that’ll keep players distracted while you adapt your notes. I’m rarely all that impressed by NPCs though. I’d rather make my own. I see the NPCs here as added extra, as inspiration or perhaps even as a guide to appropriate levels and skill sets for the temples and shrine. That later point makes a lot of sense. For each religious locale we’re told which type of character class (priest, wizards, perhaps fighters or barbarians for defence, etc) would be there and in what quantity.
The single biggest improvement isn’t with the fine extra detail added to the cartography but with the descriptions of the shrines, chapels, temples, churches and cathedrals themselves. These buildings are designed for fantasy d20 and therefore ooze with magic. The magical nature, normally magical defences, are charted and allocated to each location. There’s a fire trap in the senior wizard’s bedroom in the cathedral of Jasamai. Jasamai’s the Goddess of Magic and so if you’re snooping around in the head wizard’s room in her cathedral then you’ve no one other than yourself to blame if you loose your eyebrows.
There’s actually 34 different deities covered by the book; loads. The design allows for the full sweep of alignment combinations to be covered; everything through from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil. That’s perfect, that’s exactly what you need from the book. We’re told what the deity’s alignment is, what their priests’ alignments tend to be, their domains, symbols, favourite weapon, associate animal and colour as well as their holy days and would what count as a sacrifice for them.
There’s a mythology here too. The gods and goddesses are related and there are a couple of pantheons within the three dozen deities. We’re told how the deities sometimes appear (if, when and how that differs among the core D&D races), what they like, what they tend to think and which other gods they get on well with and which they’re at odds with.
Shrines and Temples could easily be seen as a supplement for clerics – just one that doesn’t succumb to introducing yet another new domain.
In fact, there is a lot to be said for using Shrines and Temples at the start of your game rather than as a plug in for later. Use it at the start and you can use the deities here as they are or at least have easy conversions ready. There’s also the building bias to take into consideration. It seems that starting at the lawful good side of the scale we’ll find followers more willing to build large buildings. The evil gods tend to make do with small shrines – or that’s all their unsophisticated or persecuted follows can build. The result is that the buildings the characters are most likely to be in danger in, or in combat in, are the least impressive. The cartography, especially for the large buildings, is so impressive that you’ll likely to want to use them. I suppose there’s always the siege option but I like going with the idea these good cathedrals and churches are the characters’ base of operations. This way you get to share the cartography with the players.
It’s worth noting too, that not all the temples and shrines in the book are buildings. Buildings don’t suit all the deities. Some of the religious locales are caves or sacred groves. Once again this is exactly right and the sort of attention to detail-cum-common sense that you can expect from Darkfuries.
Temples and Shrines is one of those annoyingly good but hard to use books. There’s no doubting the quality, the cartography is superb and writing excellent. It’s just hard to see a way to get the most out of it. Nevertheless, Masterwork Maps: Temple and Shrines is like a warm safety blanket. With it you shouldn’t have to worry about the architecture of an encounter in any temple.