This article originally appeared in Pyramid #1
Citybook VI: Uptown
Written by Various
Cover by Randy Asplund-Faith
Produced by Jaquays Design Studio
Published by Flying Buffalo, Inc.
96 pages -- $11.95
This is the latest entry in Flying Buffalo's excellent Citybook series. In case you're not familiar with the series, the Citybooks are generic fantasy supplements in the traditional FRPG mold, all set in the same large (and unnamed) city. Elves, dwarves, humans, mages, mercenaries, thieves . . . all the usual crowd.
In a very real sense the Citybook supplements are an anachronism -- a throwback to the days when roleplaying games all fell into a neat little patch defined by drawing a line from Tolkien to Lieber to Moorcock to Howard and back to Tolkien. This book has more in common with classics from the past like City-State of the Invincible Overlord or the Thieves' Guild books than with anything that's hot in FRPGs today. That's OK, though . . . the old-fashioned fantasy worlds are just as much fun as they ever were, and if Flying Buffalo can find enough traditionalists to keep the series selling, more power to them.
As a general rule I'm not a huge fan of supplements that don't tie into some specific system, but the "Catalyst Series" (which includes the Citybooks) pulls it off better than most. Characters are given a rating from "Poor" to "Legendary" in fighting prowess and spellcasting, and spellcasters may or may not specialize among several broad classes of magic, like combat, communication or conjuration (all the classes of spells start with a "C" -- cute). Everything else is described in plain English prose; i.e., a character might be described as "a small and slender woman, very beautiful and graceful" instead of "Poor Strength, Exceptional Dexterity and Remarkable Appearance" or similar game-speak. Conversions to most systems should be as easy as can be expected. There are no specific ties to any existing game systems.
The book describes 18 separate locations, institutions or characters, each by a different author (though a few authors are represented two or even three times). GURPS players will recognize Thomas Kane, the author of GURPS China and GURPS Espionage who contributed the first section. In this particular book, all of the settings are located in the rich part of town (hence "Up Town").
Settings include a magical health spa, a sentient museum, a floating inn and a tavern that caters to lost spirits. As can be seen from this list, the settings tend towards the magically extravagant. There are exceptions -- a bank and a hair salon that are reasonably mundane, to name just two -- but in general these settings are so mystically supercharged that you probably won't want to use them all in the same town -- or even in the same world -- unless you're running an extremely way-out fantasy campaign.
Individually, however, the settings are all intriguing, well-thought-out and entirely playable. This book meets the Catalyst Series goal of "something to give your imagination a boost towards better gaming" in spades.
The text is enhanced by illustrations from a half-dozen different artists, all of them quite good. The cover painting by Randy Asplund-Faith is attractive enough, but it's a bit too crowded to be really eye-catching.
Only a couple of small things bothered me about the book. For starters, I would have liked an introductory line or two about the nonhuman races in the city. Elves and Dwarves seem pretty standard, but Trolls seem to be more like Ogres in D&D or GURPS. Also, although the first five Citybooks are referenced often throughout this volume, they're nowhere listed -- it would have been handy to know which neighborhoods of the City have already been covered.
In general, however, Citybook VI will make an excellent addition to any traditional fantasy campaign.
-- Chris W. McCubbin
Article publication date: June 1, 1993
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