Game: City Guide: Coffer of Coins
Publisher: Dark Quest
Review Dated: 20th, June 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
The City Guides from Dark Quest are a great idea. I think their basic premise is true; cities generally are so vast that players and GMs alike often get lost when they try and move their roleplay there. The first City Guide, “Everyday Life”, did really well. It presented a number of everyday shops, shopkeepers and staff in a roleplaying friendly way. I think “Coffer of Coins”, which as City Guide 3 seems to have overtaken City Guide 2 on the release schedule, is pretty much the same. The main difference between the two is the in the quality of layout. The presentation style of “Coffer of Coins” really doesn’t work. Whereas the first have grey shaded boxes to highlight terms and descriptions, “Coffer of Coins” has stark white on black boxes that dominate the whole page. Whereas “Everday Life” makes heavy use of stat boxes, “Coffer of Coins” puts the same sort of stats in boxes with badly rounded corners. In addition, the text in these “roundtangles” run too close to the too thick sides and although it doesn’t make it very much harder to read it does make it much less pleasant on the eye. “Coffer of Coins” has extremely clunky page number boxes, also white on black, at the bottom of each page and these are large, annoying and sometimes sink into the equally annoying round corner stat boxes. I really don’t like the presentation of “Coffer of Coins” and if that were all I was going to review then I’d end here on that negative point. There is more at stake here than just presentation, the Guide itself contains nearly sixty pages (not counting the blank ones) of succinct and useful information.
The first location, the Circle of Stones, is gem shop owned by a dwarf wizard. The idea is that you need not come up with pale excuses as to why high-class jewel stores are willing to trade with scruffy adventurers and have your characters visit the Circle of Stones instead. I like the pun name of the store and I always like to learn new words. “Lapidary” is a precious stone cutter. There are four and a half pages on the Circle of Stones and they run through the important rooms, people, secrets and items on sale as well as how easy or tricky it might be to steal from the place.
There are two pages for the Affordable Notions, which is the headquarters for a talented coppersmith. I think the reasons for your player characters to be dealing with a coppersmith is much less than with the gem cutter but I suppose it serves well enough as “A Random Shop” which your PCs may walk into.
Four and a half pages are found for the strange combination of a “gem and goblet” store. For some reason I didn’t enjoy Overflowing Cheer as much as I did the Circle of Stones. I think there’s more room to tag plot strands into the Overflowing Cheer but despite the bizarre inventory of the shop but I think the sort of plots and story twists that it’ll attract will be pretty vanilla in nature.
The Smithing Guild is bread and butter stuff and I think it’s the highlight of this PDF. Extremely helpful tips include how many smiths a town or city can support, the sort of price and percentage take a Guild might charge on any smith selling, importing or exporting and key prices for important metals. An ingot of steel is literarily worth its weight in gold. There’s details for different types of forges; its easier to craft your sword in a large forge, there are different components used in the process, coal, charcoal, tincal and others.
Kearik Stonetear’s Gems is, yes, another shop that deals with gems. It’s not that the authors have gone mad, it’s that the aim of this particular City Guide seems to be to provide a way for adventurers to go through the process of turning treasure into gold. This time it’s an old gnome’s store in the spotlight. There’s a patch of text here that has a light grey background as a highlight and it just shows you how very much more successful the formatting trick is compared to the white on black boxes and round corner text boxes. There’s a list of possible adventure hooks but they could just as well be applied to the gem and goblet store of Overflowing Cheer.
You wont make out the small “s” in Strongaxe Silversmithery in the font used in the PDF but you may make out the telltale signs of all to familiar with the awful fantasy clichés that so many players pander to when you notice the table of costs for silvering weapons includes the infamous katana in an otherwise conservative list.
The Smith of Rare Metals is another of this Guide’s selling points (which makes two for and one against). There’s a nice list of interesting innately magical metals that put an end to the mithral and adamantine duopoly. Ignisium and glacium have some nice protective bonuses and as their names suggest have temperature effects as well. Sanctium is even more potent still but very much more rare and isn’t really usable by evil or chaotic characters.
What struck me most about Andora’s Quality Inlays was the slight change in writing style. It becomes less formal, less like a book and more like a review. It’s Andora the NPC that seems to be the driving force here, rather than the location or the utility on offer. The plot hooks slightly annoyed me here, suggesting that I may not have released that a small location can be used was cause to arch an eyebrow and suggesting that a player character becomes infatuated with Andora caused the other eyebrow to arch. The GM can’t decide, shouldn’t decide, whether player characters become infatuated in NPCs. Okay, sure, they’re just suggestions but I reserve the right to arch eyebrows at them.
The Beads and Prayer shop ranks as one of the most original and there is some attempt to make the most of this in the plot hook suggestion but there’s the same amount of standard “there could be a robbery”.
The Sargasso Ring Emporium has that sort of name that will make players think twice and this combines nicely with the infamy of magical rings. The shop and NPCs are fairly standard but the sample rings are rather nice: fetching names at the very least. There’s a much longer list of adventure hooks and ideas for this entry than with most of the others and I think it’s clear enough the author of this section was suitably enthused with their ideas – which is a good thing.
Crecmair’s Fine Pewterware is novel choice for a store. I imagine even brave and bold adventurers have the need to buy new cutlery. There’s the usual detail of NPCs who man the store and the usual level of precision in putting it all together but aside from reminding us of the existence of pewterware it doesn’t really do that much more.
Uriel’s Ursuries represents a very much more likely stopping place for your band of adventurers. Money changing, money lending and of course loan sharking could be critical in many long term fantasy campaigns; especially the empire building style, but I suspect it rarely is. This section is handy for converting coins to ingots and slips of ingots.
We end with Karapan Ringsmith and there’s a whole lot here. In fact, the level of extra detail in this last shop reminds of the detail I found in City Guide: Everyday Life.
This City Guide didn’t overly impress me but I wasn’t overly dismayed by it either. There’s nothing here that will have you regretting shelling out a mere $5 for the download but if you already have the first City Guide or something similar then you might just shrug your shoulders and add it to your collection without a comment. I think having a City Guide is a good idea; it prints out well and is that sort of valuable resource which can lurk in the GM’s folder and be used to turn an otherwise sloppy patch of campaign into something in line with the high quality bits.