||Shadowspawn?s Guide to Sanctuary is a 252 page PDF (257 with Full color cover, OGL/Credits page, & 3 pages of ads) city guide for D20/D&D 3.5, It features an overview of the infamous city at the center of the Thieves? World novels, Sanctuary. The guide is made up of 8 chapters and an introduction. Chapter one provides a timeline and history of Sanctuary from it?s founding by Ilsigi tribesmen, through it?s subjugation by the Rankan Empire, the occupation of the Beysib, onto current times and the rule of the nomadic Irrune. Chapter two provides an overview of life in the city of Sanctuary. Chapter three provides an overview of the city of Sanctuary, its districts and notable locations, outlying areas and the surrounding region, during both the Rankan era, and the current Irrune era. Chapter four provides listings for major characters, as featured in the books, from the Rankan era, while chapter five provides listings of major characters, as featured in the books, from the Irrune Era. Chapter six covers adventuring in Sanctuary. Chapter seven offers write-ups of several common character?s to be found in Sanctuary, saving the GM the trouble of generating them himself. Finally, chapter 8 is the player?s expansion, adding additional cultures, backgrounds, feats, and prestige classes, and a section on Ur-Words.
The introduction provides an overview of Sanctuary as a gaming setting, discussing the types of campaign that fit within it?s Eras, and the nature and tone of the games staged in the setting, ending with an encouragement to fill in the ?undiscovered country? of the setting with your own ideas and character?s, just as the writer?s of the anthologies worked alongside and in-between the other writers in the setting. Or to change major features of the setting to reflect developments you have instituted.
Chapter one provides an informative overview of Sanctuary?s history with an emphasis on the Rankan and Irrune eras, as featured in the Thieves? World anthologies. This is especially useful for old fans, like me, who may not be familiar with the new stories set in the Irrune era.
Chapter two gives you a street, or gutter, level overview of life in Sanctuary, in both the Rankan and Irrune eras, with notes about economics & industry, religion, drugs & the drug trade (always a major theme in the original anthologies, and a major part of the grim & gritty tone of the stories.), food, entertainment, and of course crime, and for those who get caught, punishment. The chapter then goes on to cover the politics of the city, and its police & military forces. The chapter ends with information on other power groups and organizations within the city, such as the Blue Star Adepts, which featured in the original anthology.
Chapter three provides an overview of the geography and layout of Sanctuary, providing descriptions of its major districts and notable locations, such as the Vulgar Unicorn tavern in the Maze, or the location of Prince Kadakithis? palace, which was destroyed during the Irrune era. Tables providing random building types are provided as well as maps of Sanctuary during the Rankan and Irrune eras. Each map features keyed entries listing the various described locations. There is also a map provided for the infamous Vulgar Unicorn, whose write-up includes a listing of drink prices and other bits of setting detail.
Chapter four and five include write-ups, with description, personality, stat-blocks and notes, for major characters from the Thieves? World anthologies, both from the original series? Rankan Era, and the new series? Irrune Era. All of the notables are included, such as the wizard Enas Yorl, Hanse called Shadowspawn, your titular guide to Sanctuary, the former gladiator turned crime lord Jubal, Lastel ?One-Thumb? the owner of the Vulgar Unicorn, Lythande, the Blue Star Adept, the stepson Nikodamus, and nigh-immortal Tempus, godsworn of Vashanka.
Chapter six covers adventuring in sanctuary, including rules for adapting the basic classes and D&Ds magic system to feel more like magic in the Thieves? World setting. Some optional rules variants, including Action Points, as present in D20 Modern, and a class defense bonus, to reflect that armor is rarely worn in thieves? world setting. Another interesting variant offered for the campaign structure is the use of Round-Robin GMing, or character clusters. These variants are meant to reflect the differences of voice and style, and tone, to a certain degree, present in the anthologies, due to the different authors writing the individual stories. The chapter is rounded out by a short section on bringing across a city atmosphere, and the dirty, squalid place that is Sanctuary, in particular. Finally, a table of 100 adventure seeds, and an expansive collection of Rankan Era adventure outlines is provided.
Chapter seven provides a convenient selection of NPC write-ups for common character types to be encountered in Sanctuary, saving the GM the trouble of statting them up himself.
Finally, chapter eight provides an additional selection of crunchy player options. This includes additional minor cultures a character may be from, most of which are common to the Rankan era. Next is a selection of additional backgrounds, providing more Sanctuary specific ?life-paths? a character might have followed. A selection of new feats are provided, most of which are based on the Ur-word ?magic? system also detailed in this chapter. Finally eight new prestige classes are included, some of the more interesting ones being Harka Bey Assassin and Nisibisi Spy.
The PDF itself is a very attractive affair, done in black & white with grayscale artwork. It is laid out in two columns with plenty of white-space. It features an appealing decorative font for section headings, and a clear readable font for body text. However, many section headings are done as a white text on a solid black bar, another ink waster, while others use a thick rule or thin double rule. The header and footer use a dark text color on a solid textured graphic, which was presumably colored in the print version, which is going to kill your ink and mortally wound your toner if you print the PDF. The color is a nice full-color piece featuring Shadowspawn in some kind of action pose in an alleyway. Pretty, but another terrible ink sucker. The artwork is of decent to good quality, done by a number of artists, ranging from simple line art to ?painted? grayscale pieces.
Overall, this is an excellent product, packed with lots of good details on Sanctuary, its history, peoples, politics, and customs. The city is laid bare for your adventuring pleasure with lots of description and adventure hooks gracing the chapters, and interesting color quips from Shadowspawn here and there. So, if you are playing a D20 Thieves? World game, buy it, if you want to run a Thieves World game in another system, it is still worth the money, and it is even a worthwhile purchase for a plain old Thieves? World fanboy. Unfortunately, as PDFs go, it is a masochistic purchase if you want a print-out of it. So only print out bits you need, or get it printed a print-shop, your ink/toner cartridge will appreciate your mercy, not to mention your wallet.
LIKED: Maps, history, color quotes by Shadowspawn, story pulls, and extra culture write-ups
DISLIKED: The print version of a PDF (and with a busy "print" design like this, there should be a print version) should not be the PDF converted from the dead-tree version of the product, but the PDF with the ink-wasting decorative elements and fancy backgrounds removed, thank you, drive through. Oh, what?s up with the 3 pages, of dark background ads at the back, you got stock in a printer company or something?
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]
[4 of 5 Stars!]