Typical fantasy RPGs offer a large number of varying locations for characters to adventure in, but the city adventure probably offers the most scope and versatility in adventure design and potential. City adventures offer intrigue, politics, mystery, plenty of roleplaying and can even host small or even very large dungeons. Some of the best products and most known products for fantasy RPGs on the market have been about cities. With a well designed and carefully crafted city, the DM should never be at a loss for things to throw at his PCs, or ways to challenge them to the enjoyment of the players.
City Streets: Kagen's Books and Knowledge is the second in the City Streets series of products from Generic Universe Publishing, and is a product designed to assist in creating lively, versatility city locations filled with roleplaying opportunities and plot hooks. The product is system independent, and uses an innovative system called Sparks System Independent to help you convert the product to your fantasy system of choice. The City Streets products each present a well-crafted location filled with NPCs, plots, interesting events and the potential to make a city adventure even more fun. This entry in the series features a wisened mage and sage, and his research library, ready for the PCs to visit and more.
The presentation of City Streets: Kagen's Books and Knowledge is good, albeit fairly generic, with a well-presented cover, and liberal use of stock art to liven up the product interior. The entire product, including writing, layout and cartography, has been done by Patrick Lawinger, who some might recognise as a prolific writer for Necromancer Games, Dark Quest Games and others. The writing is good and clear with only a couple of noticeable errors, the layout easy to follow, and the cartography is fair, being hand drawn rather than computer assisted. Overall, a fair presentation that slots nicely into the series with a similar style to other products.
As mentioned, the product is system independent, but uses the Sparks system to create a way in which to guide you in converting the product and its monsters and NPCs to your favorite fantasy RPG. The system is based on grading a monster or NPCs on things like combat ability, magical talent, traps, and several others which act as a guide to the NPC's abilities. So a creature with mediocre combat ability is very different from one with heroic combat ability, while one with minor magical talent is different from one with awesome magical talent. Each grading consists of about 5 levels, which should be sufficient to convert. The system isn't perfect as it won't allow for the best conversion, but it's very useful as a handy guide to conversion. It's well thought out, and versatile covering most of the important aspects required to convert to most mechanical systems.
Kagen's Book and Knowledge presents both a highly detailed book store and description of Kagen himself. The product describes the shop, it's location, it's interior with all pertinent features, and also any aspects of Kagen and his shop that are of note to adventurers and plot hooks. Kagen's business operations and clientele are also described, giving you a very good and detailed look at all aspects of Kagen, his shop, his motives and his life. Naturally the product also includes several plot hooks, featuring amongst other things murder and blackmail. The descriptions are vivid and realistic, and leave one with enough room to manuever to expand on the material should you wish to. Kagen is presented as an interesting researcher and sage, and has many uses to a group of adventurers beyond the plot hooks presented in this product.
In general I enjoyed this product. It provided a generic and detailed description of a useful city location, and adds several spicy plot hooks and enough detail to expand and create your own. The city location is useful as a location, and one that most major or metropolitan cities are likely to have. I hope that future products in the series will focus on both small and large cities, but also on more common locations, offering good variety in the series between location types. The location isn't particularly fantastical being more medieval than highly magical, and you can easily imagine a similar place in a modern RPG, but it does contain fantastical and magical elements. Overall, a good product that can provide a useful location for your city, but a little dose of the extraordinary and the unusual would not go amiss.