Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Masterwork Maps: Inns & Taverns

Jerry Stratton, June 23, 2004

I picked this up at GenCon west last December. It was one of about two items that I purchased at that convention. I’m not sure why; it just caught my eye. Partially, I just like maps. I also have several of the old Judges Guild mapbooks, such as the Castle Book II and Caves & Caverns. And my real-world historical bookshelf is filled with big coffee-table books with titles such as "Atlas of World History" and "Atlas of Archaeology".

So when I see a gaming company displaying books dedicated to maps, I stop and explore. They were also giving out a larger miniatures-sized map of one of the taverns with each purchase (at the time of writing, they are still doing this for mail orders directly from them), and, the kicker, they include some recipes from medieval time periods. Actually, the real kicker was that they thought that was a selling point.

Maps and recipes, you can’t hardly go wrong.

For your twenty bucks you get a lot of floorplans. The back cover blurb says twenty inns and fifteen taverns. That looks about right. At the low end there are several one-page descriptions of establishments such as “The Cart & Horse” and the “Blue Flame Cafe”. The more interesting establishments get five-page and six-page descriptions, such as the Elven “Four Oaks”. Oddly enough it’s called “The Three Oaks” in the table of contents. That is the only mistake I’ve found so far. And that only because I just now looked in the table of contents to see what the larger entries were.

The shorter entries consist of a map (the shorter entries usually have only one floor, and perhaps a tiny basement); three lines describing the general quality of the food, the level of the prices, who usually goes there, and the name of the owners; and then a short description of the establishment and its history.

The larger entries go into detail about who works there, what they are like, what they want out of life, and what rivalries or intrigues exist around the establishment. You can, of course, use the maps on their own or along with the extra information.

You can also purchase an e-book version for $5.00 Note, however, that the e-book version is not PDF, and does not (as far as I can tell) contain scalable versions of the maps.

There is not much d20-only material in here: it's a bunch of maps and textual background. For the larger entries, the non-player characters are presented with their d20 stats. The first paragraph of each NPC is fairly cryptic. Beyond that, though, and it’s a list of skills, possessions, and abilities useful for any game system.

I was surprised at how useful this book is. While there are two or three more fantastic establishments that will need to be carefully placed, most of them can, with a few changes here and there, be popped into your settings while you're setting up or even on the spur of the moment.

If you need some quick patrons, there is a sixteen page section of possible NPCs for use in the inns and taverns. I’m not really sure how useful those are. While a few present some interesting adventure hooks, actually searching through the NPC listings when you need a certain type of NPC is likely to take more time than just creating one from scratch.

There are three old-style recipes here. You could use this to describe some cooking going on. The recipes are presented in two forms: one in a very decorative and hard-to-read font in an old form of English, and one in a normal font, in modern English but still without any real directions.



The recipes would be more useful if, instead of merely translating the archaic English they put the recipes in a form that modern cooks could use. I'm not sure I want to be seen flaying eels. The fake weird religious/celtic font is a bit annoying as well. It's hard enough to read the old english without adding a modern decorative font to the mix.

Two of the recipes are chosen as much for gross-out factors as for anything else. I don’t think I’ll be serving boiled eels at my game any time soon, even if I did know the correct temperature and cooking times.

Recipes aside, this is a useful book to have around. Its strength is a solid collection of useful inns and taverns, with maps and quick descriptions for use at any moment. It has a permanent place in my bag of tricks when running a Gods & Monsters game.

  1. <- Constantinople
  2. GURPS: Timeline ->