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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
 
$9.99
Average Rating:4.4 / 5
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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
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Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/27/2017 05:42:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book is 64 pages long, with one page credits...and we actually get MORE out of the book than its 64 pages. How does that work? Well, let me elaborate.

This pdf is based on the second edition, primarily the print edition. It has received pretty much a selection of awards. So why review this now? Because all reviews I found did not really prepare me for what this book actually brings to the table.

So let's start with the obvious: This book is radically and systematically designed to make use of the features of the physicality of the medium book. The hardcover comes with a sleeve and on the inside of the sleeve, you get a massive full-color map that can be found via a secret link if you get the pdf version. The map , much like the cover image and interior artwork, all adhere to author Zak Sabbath's unique and distinct style - a style that may polarize, but personally, I enjoy the somewhat post-punk/post-gothic, fantastic anachronism that the depictions of the city as black claws rising from the world conveyed - my immediate association would be the BLAME manga-series and its sprawling, cruel structures...but this is no mere quote, it is an aesthetic vision and, as all good art does, it will not be to everyone's liking.

The book's structure. Well, on the inside of the sleeves and yes, throughout the book, would be instructions for charts: The front and back cover, on the inside and outside, provide charts, with representations of the claw-like sprawling city structures framed by numbers; by for example dropping dice on these artworks, you can, among other things, determine quick and dirty damage and attacks versus body parts or use it to jumpstart your imagination in a variety of other ways. One page away from the inside of the back cover (which btw. contains a gigantic table), we have a vast selection of professions - similarly, relations between them can thus be quickly determined. And indeed, while not all such functions championed by the book can be perfectly translated to all the different systems out there, I should not be remiss to mention that a significant section of this pdf is devoted to being basically one of the most amazing GM-aids I have ever read, regardless of the system you're using.

If you have ever read a fantasy book like China Miéville's brilliant Bas-Lag novels and wondered how to ever depict a sprawling metropolis like that in your game without resorting to copious levels of handwaving or gigantic tomes of prepared material - this book is the answer. the urbancrawling rules are meta and brilliant: The book sports a vast array of so-called urbancrawling rules and tricks that allow you to almost instantly generate whole neighborhoods, street webs, etc. - beyond the fantasy metropolis, these methods can easily be employed in pretty much any roleplaying context, whether you're going for the fantastic hive, a sprawling science-fiction station, non-Euclidean ruins... generating chaotic street-networks within a few minutes has been a boon for my own campaign ever since I read the ideas here. They may be deceptively simple, yes - but oh so effective. And no, I am not going to spoil the details here. Why? Because I really want you to get this book.

Now, these urbancrawling rules obviously can only provide the framework for an enterprising GM to use, but in conjunction with aforementioned graphs and tables, the book becomes more interesting. And if you require a vast array of detail, fret not, for a significant portion of the book is devoted to gigantic table upon table of names, professions, goals, names - and tying the NPCs together in social webs is similarly covered. I tried it. Within 30 minutes with this book, I can make a moderately detailed series of very professional feeling villages, neighborhoods and similar settlements. And I suck at drawing maps and am damn picky. And yes, from looted bodies to fortunes and magical effects, the strange and uncommon all tap into this massive dressing collection herein.

Now, the dressing here does depict the Vornheim setting; the Grey Maze, its sprawling spires rising from the arctic plane, a city near a forest that should not exist, of which scholars claim that the trees may be phlegmatic undead; a city wondrous and vile, near the city of goblins, situated on a hive of stone, ostensibly the result of legendary medusas once petrifying the flesh of whatever once was...the world?. Here, the church of the god of Iron, Rust and Rain and the church of the goddess of all flesh exist. It is within this city that the decadent upper class has taken to the fad of purchasing slow pets, highlighting their copious surfeit of spare time; it is here that sometimes, there are masquerades; sometimes, the gates are opened to the wolves. It is common knowledge that the skin of snakes and serpentine creatures are books that contain ancient secrets and that here, the wyvern of the well can be found - who will unerringly answer ONE question for any interlocutor. From the granary cats to the grub nagas and thornchildren, a selection of truly imaginative creatures inhabits this place...and a selection of superstitions can provide a vast array of different adventure hooks.

Which brings me to yet another aspect of the book: You see, Vornheim is ALSO a book containing three modules.

I'll be brief, but potential players should still jump to the conclusion. There are some SPOILERS to be found here.

...

..

.

The most common would be the House of the Medusa, wherein the PCs have to infiltrate the house of one of the fabled medusas...oh, and if they kill her, they may inadvertently de-petrify a significant part of the world, making it flesh once again...with far-reaching consequences.

The second module deals with the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng, a menagerie of strange creatures gone totally rogue, where the primary antagonist of the book, the mastermind takes on a form most peculiar - and if the PCs don't want to brave all those lethal and unique creatures, they should be up to their A-game.

Thirdly, we have the labyrinthine puzzle-dungeon also known as the library of Zorlac, basically an interesting infiltration/espionage-scenario at your fingertips...or a truly strange place to visit and work in.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a very buy one-column or two-column standard, with a ton of information on every single page. The layout is obviously made for the A5-booklet (6'' by 9'') size, though I'd strongly suggest not printing out multiple pages on one sheet of paper here - the sheer information density means that the font becomes too small if you try that here. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The book is incredibly aesthetically pleasing if you enjoy Zak Sabbath's style of art, with layout using black frames on the pages - so yeah, this is not the most printer-friendly of books. And while the pdf does an admirable job at maintaining the raw functionality of the physical dead-tree hardcover, the sheer switching of sheets of paper takes a bit away from the immediate functionality when comparing the printed version or screen-version with the physical hardcover. The hardcover is the preferred version - with nice binding, sleeves and even the covers having a function...so yeah. If you can afford it, go for print.

Zak Sabbath's Vornheim is a piece of art that captured my interest to a higher extent that many, many books of ten times their page-count and more. As a GM-aid, this provides some phenomenally-innovative tools of the trade that even veteran GMs may not necessarily know yet - I learned more from this book's tricks than from any comparable GM-book, which is a feat in and of itself, considering the experience I have. While the quick-and-dirty attack-charts or any chart really, may not be for everyone, I'd be seriously surprised if any GM went into this book without some seriously cool new tool of the trade.

The city Vornheim itself represents one of the most evocative settlements I have read in a long time: Beyond the truly fantastic setting, its unconventional premises and unfettered, raw collection of absolutely inspired tidbits, the influences of contemporary weird fiction and the writings of Borges are readily apparent on every page. The city manages to evoke a sense of wonder only all too rarely still found among the settings out there - it is phenomenal and I would not have minded a 500-page tome on the city; it's brevity is almost painful, it's excellence achingly pronounced, particularly if you've found yourself bored with standard settlements and most so-called "fantastic" cities and customs.

The 3 modules contained herein all have different, interesting angles and while I explicitly remained brief in their descriptions, they similarly...well, are brief. They are interesting, evocative, inspired...but brief. Oh so brief.

You're probably seeing where this is going. Vornheim is, in all components of its content, whether as a GM-aid, as a sourcebook or regarding the modules included, a truly phenomenal offering; each component shines brightly like a cruel Northern star - but at the same time, while the components are interconnected, I could not help but feel like it was buckling under its own ambition - the book is so jam-packed, it strains at the seams and universally leaves the reader inspired and wiser, yes - but also wanting more. You will not finish reading this book and feel saturated. When I came to the end of the setting-section, I was disappointed I did not get more; the same held true for all other sections. This book represents a perfect kit to create a glorious city, a sprawling moloch. It perfectly depicts one of the most unique, fantastic cities I've read...but it may be, at times, too good, too inspired for its own sake.

I can absolutely see someone expecting a campaign setting/city-setting wanting more; I can see those craving adventures wanting more detail; I can see those that looked for the GM-aid components wanting to receive more dressing, more details, more tricks...but ultimately, all of these criticisms are not fair. Do I believe that this, at double the page count, would have been even better? Heck yes. Do I want a full-blown, massive sourcebook on Vornheim, perhaps a whole mega-campaign or AP set in it? OH YES. Yes, please. But the thing is - the book does not try to be just a city sourcebook; just some modules, just some game-aids - while the amalgamation of these components may put a strain on the reader, they also force the GM's hand.

Vornheim says: "This is what you can do with the book. Want more? Then strain your creativity, use your own brain. CREATE." This book, in short, forces the GM to act, to create. It strips away the pretensions, the excuses we make time and again and tells us to make its contents our own, make this grey maze our grey maze. Sure, we may crave just consumption - but this does not try to be simply consumed - it forces you to create, by virtue of its own brilliance.

All the accolades heaped upon this book are justified. While the pdf loses a bit of the impact of its physicality in the electronic version, I still consider this to be one truly amazing, unique book that should grace the shelves of any self-respecting GM. It is a brilliant exercise in inspiration, a rallying call to flex one's own creative muscles - it is, in short, an intoxicating vision. Get this.

My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. And yes, this receives the EZG-Essential-tag. This belongs into the library of any advanced GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2017 08:26:06

Great stuff. The atmosphere is alien and wonderful. I love the processes and hints for quickly producing neighborhoods and city settings along with a quick floor plan design method. Fantastic stuff and the writing is entertaining and witty. A very enjoyable toolkit for any game master.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Bartek E. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/03/2016 23:11:14

One of my all-time favourite RPG books. I play Savage Worlds rather than LotFP, but I still often read this book because of its awesome flavour and excellent advice for running city campaigns. Vornheim is definitely the most compelling fantasy city I've ever seen in an RPG.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/01/2015 00:38:45

In this book is a strange city. It's not like a standard city source book as it contains tables for generating much of the city on the fly. Only a few locations are actually mapped. It generally gives advice for running this city but the ideas are good enough that you might want to use similar ideas for other cities in your campaign. The locations and tables contain enough weird and intriguing stuff to entertain and puzzle your players for a good while. A very good book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Ahimsa K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2015 12:56:14

Probably few people will use or appreciate everything in this book (neither the library nor the zoo quest struck me as easy to run), but almost every GM will find lots of worth in here. Unquestionably belongs in the RPG sourcebook canon.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by ASH L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/01/2015 18:25:03

This book has a ton of good ideas, but the presentation of those ideas was not in a style that I enjoyed reading. The artwork was also a let-down, it has a very raw 'punk' aesthetic that just didn't appeal to me. It just wasn't to my taste. I felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be 'edgy' and 'adult'.

It is a pity that the writing and artwork let down the ideas propelling the work; with a little more effort this could have been something truly great.

Still, if you are a fan of random tables and like the particular style of art in the book then the ideas here make it worth the price of admission. Any one of the pages in this book has enough ideas to become the seed of a memorable session, and it would have been nice to see those ideas expanded upon.

If you are a fan of the anarchic tongue-in-cheek style of books like 'HOL' or 'The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming' then you might like this book too, though a lot of the humor is darker. If you are looking for a similar work but presented in a more readable and enjoyable way I'd suggest 'Your Whispering Homunculus' by Richard Pett (published by Open Design / Kobold Publishing).

In short: fantastic ideas, but the very unpolished raw style of the writing and art doesn't fit my personal tastes.

I didn't enjoy this book, but you might. This one is very much a matter of taste.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by David M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/04/2015 11:57:45

I like this a lot and find that it's full of interesting ideas that I can use. I don't think $9 is expensive considering the amount of usable ideas in it. I liked "A Red and Pleasant Land" very much, so this author seems to be creating product that I enjoy. It'll be interesting to start creating various cities (or even just one!) using "Vornheim". It works for me, that's all I can say. I also think the artwork is cool.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Sven F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2015 02:39:52

Great resource! And I don't need to study the book before using it - as long as I've flicked through it before a session, I have plenty of tables and inspiration for any city adventure. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Troy V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/20/2015 06:18:23

Okay, but I don't consider it worth $9. While it contained some good tables and encounter generator guides, it was haphazardly composed and the art was lackluster.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Chris M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/09/2014 16:20:47

I bought this product for 2 reasons.

1) I've heard so many good things about Vornheim from a bevy of blogs I follow and whom opinions I respect, I figured it was about time I purchase the pdf. I'm glad I did as I was not disappointed by the content. The book is chock full of inspirational ideas and story nuggets perfect for any fantasy campaign.

2) I wanted to show my financial and moral support for "Zack Smith" who authored this work. To let him know he's not alone in the gaming community in his disdain towards the SJW's (Social Justice Warriors) and Cultural Marxist who constantly attack him and seek to control discourse in the on-line RPG community. Keep on fighting the good fight Zak.

First they came for the Simulationist Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Simulationist Gamer. Then they came for the Tactical Combat Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Tactical Combat Gamer. Then they came for the Old-School Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Old-School Gamer. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~ Gwarh



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Anders N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 03:37:14

It's rare to find a product this evocative; I've only done so a few times before. It combines inspiration and a touch of odd with soo much utility. It'll be one of your best friends at the table. It's sad that it's out of print right now, because I would really love a physical copy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Andrew K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 03:07:27

If you search the words "city guide" on drivethrurpg.com you can find everything in this guide that is even remotely useful from other people who can write in a coherent style.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Jeremy F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/07/2014 21:37:15

Vornheim is a fantastic toolkit for building a decadent fantasy urban sprawl campaign. This short book packs a mighty wallup!

You should not expect this to be Encyclopedia Vornheim. It instead provides a skeletal framework and palette on which you can layer, via the tools in the book, your version of Vornheim. Its a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, tethered to the wire table, storm brewing, waiting for the bolt of lightning to ignite the life within.

Having already had a physical copy of this book, I wanted a PDF copy as well. The physical book is amongst my most treasured RPG books. It is a reliable source for inspiration, not because it is a complete setting, but because it evokes a richness of setting that could never be fully explored.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Eltup E. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/07/2014 17:29:50

the only remotely useful parts are already free blogposts on the dude's website

I guess I'm not a table junky, and I find the content mostly unimaginative tween's first black metal style garbage. Tried using it in play but it's more cumbersome and less interesting than anything I made up on the spot, especially with the trite and juvenile assumed setting and terrible art.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/02/2013 00:07:05

A buddy of mine on G+ recommended Vornheim, solely for the clever rules about buying up objects and pricing things on the fly. Well, suffice it to say that there is a wealth of interesting and useful tidbits scattered liberally throughout this work. The setting is wonky and novel, with very little Tolkien and plenty of Hunter S. Thompson. I don't frequent Zak's pages, but I do get occasional updates on his particularly useful house rules, and almost all of them I incorporate into my game (MY DIRTY LITTLE HEART OF LIES SAYS THAT I MADE THESE THINGS UP AND I COULD HAVE THOUGHT THESE NICIES UP MYSEL) Ahem. The fact of the matter is, Zak doesn't think like you do, and you could never have thought these interesting things up. Snakes as spellbooks? Pssh. That's as cool and as novel as the backside of a pillow, with a Poppy Z. Brite book underneath, with interesting and suspicious stains on the special pages.

The "house generation" rules are great guidelines and a good skill to foment in your braincase, the random NPC and hook charts are delightful, and the art is nice, too. Hey, you could spend that 9 bucks on tasteful porn, but spend it on this instead and get your brain thinking in a different and more fun direction! Or whatever! I don't judge.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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