When I first saw the Kickstarter for Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns, I have to admit I squeaked from happiness and was very hopeful. Somedays ago I received the our preview copy and I have read it cover to cover. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed! But I there were some things that made me a bit… well, sad.
Size & Organisation
“Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns” is a 250 pages, a mighty tome of information. More impressively, there’s no unnecessary fluff. It is filled with information and ideas that will certainly help you create cities, bring them to life, and play in them.
The book is separated into 5 chapters, plus the appendix:
- City Planning
- Anatomy of a City
- City Inhabitants
- City Campaigns
- City Heroes
I must admit that every single chapter had a wealth of information I wasn’t expecting to find, and I didn’t know I needed. There has been some really good editing work to keep the contents clean and well structured, which greatly improves its readability.
In City planning, you will find some really good gems and suggestions of how to handle magic (I am SO using this on my current game), but also information about the population and size of a city.
Anatomy of a City introduces the very interesting and well thought out concept of the six climates. This concept totally checks out, and streamlines your city building without losing any detail. What made me a bit sad here was some of the ideas around districts: in my opinion, they needed a bit more thought. They’ve introduced a default “district” system to ALL cities (which doesn’t allow for authentic variance between cities). Also the concept of a “guard district” is a bit odd.
City Inhabitants is a beautiful and well organised resource that will populate your cities with living, breathing organisms, and all the bustle of real life.
City Campaigns and City Heroes are the two chapters I didn’t know I needed, yet thoroughly enjoyed. A buttload of ideas for encounters, reasons for the heroes to be there, but also ideas of how to live in the city as a party. City Heroes introduces some very good rulesets that can keep a campaign rolling but also reward your players in creative ways.
The illustrations of “Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns” are immaculate. They give you the feeling of a fantasy city and inspire you to think how you’d like your city to look like.
The maps used are absolutely beautiful and I loved the maps that display how a city grows.
I would have liked to see a bit more help on the navigation of the book. The page numbers are well placed but such a big book needs something like the page-edge navigation, like the latest Pathfinder 2 books. This would help you quickly flip to the section you’re looking for.
Some other things that made me a bit sad
There were a just few areas, though, that I thought could have used a spot of polish in “Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns”. Granted, these areas are things I’m really passionate about in RPGs, and other GMs might not have such an issue here.
This was one thing that I wish was better. I am not sure what calculations were done in the background to establish base prices and the economic model used, but some of the prices made little sense.
The most obvious example is the fact that 1lb of Grain and 1lb of Flour (presumably made using said grain) both cost 1 copper piece. It doesn’t make sense that a processed product like flour would cost the same as the base ingredient (grain). Do millers work for free here?
Another quite obvious issue is that although the system gives prices for gold, silver and copper by the pound (lb), they are not equivalent to the gold, silver and copper coin cost! This makes no sense to me.
Units were also a bit of an issue. There is no explanation of what a barrel or a pallet are in volume or weight which makes them quite arbitrary.
Finally Coal, Marble, Fish etc are all missing from the list of Trade good prices, although mentioned in the city production space. This felt like it was missed out during the editing process.
I love the fact that it was included! And the ideas presented on tax calculation have some basis. However, compared to the prices of trade goods it seems unbalanced, and I’d be worried about the denizens of my city going bankrupt through heavy taxation. Honestly, this was rather hard to judge because, although we learn about how things are taxed or sold, there’s no mention of wages. That would have been such an interesting and helpful addition to the book which might help a GM or worldbuilder understand the proposed economic balance presented here a little better.
“Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns”: The Verdict
Definitely must buy
+5 Really well written and extremely detailed
+5 Gorgeous Maps
+4 Very good campaign running system
+3 Good artwork
+3 Good concepts on the economy
-4 Lack of information on wages
-3 Trade Goods system was lacking
-3 Taxation base price and calculations were off compared to the rest of the prices
You can pick up “Campaign Builder: Cities & Towns” from the Kobold Press Shop, and it really is a great read!
Want me to review more things? Have more questions about this book? Leave a comment below!
Thank you for this review. I was curious about the contents and how it would add to the current tools I use to build out cities.
I thought the same about districts! I really liked the guilds coverage, but kind of hoped there was more town building, it all felt very city focused.
Into the Cess and Citidel is a really good city book as well (without good district info, lol!)