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The Lost Lands: Bard's Gate (PFRPG)

***** (based on 3 ratings)
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Bard’s Gate serves as a cornerstone for The Lost Lands, a fully-developed fantasy city that can be used in any campaign. Within is a wide range of businesses and shops, churches and temples, homes, taverns, inns and other locations are described in detail, ready made for your ease of use. Bard’s Gate is filled with unique NPCs, from the most influential leaders and wealthiest merchants on high to the lowliest beggar living in the gutter.After a decade of playability, with the associated stories, tall tales, lies, and legends, Frog God Games presents you with the updated and reimagined The Lost Lands: Bard’s Gate.

In striking full-color, and more than doubling the size of the original, The Lost Lands: Bard’s Gate details hundreds of individual locations and NPCs, gives an overview of the Lyre Valley and a complete history of the city, and quadruples the number of adventures that were found in the original, raising the total to 8. The adventures contained within are suitable for player characters of 1st level to 10th and even beyond.

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Product Reviews (3)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 3 ratings)

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Superb book

*****

There are going to be some in depth reviews of this book and I'll be surprised if any of them are less than glowing.

I have a hardback of Bard's Gate sitting on my 3rd Edition shelf. It was one of my favorite city books. This HUGE revision is the best setting supplement I've come across in four decades of role playing.

The fact that it can be the base for campaigning all over Frog God's 'The Lost Lands' means that there is enough here for years of adventuring. If you want a colorful city for your characters to explore, with adventure from 1st through 10th level, this is it.

Check out the other reviews here for more specifics. But I think that FGG has exceeded expectations with this 535 page monster. If you liked those old Necromancer Games modules, or Frog God's current output, Bard's Gate is going to be a tremendous asset to your gaming.


*****

Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter that funded this book, and received both a physical copy and a PDF.

Ah, Bard's Gate. If you're at all familiar with the Lost Lands Campaign Setting, you've heard this name. Bard's Gate is to the Lost Lands what Absalom is to the Inner Sea - an economic powerhouse with a reach well beyond its size.

Now, much like Slumbering Tsar, Bard's Gate is a "city" book - but rather than being an adventure through ruins, Bard's Gate is an active, vibrant city with an immense amount of detail. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say this is the largest, most complex city book currently available for Pathfinder... and what a city it is. There are districts, political factions, guilds, and rules for buying property, managing a business, plenty of unique NPCs, a history of the region, details of the city's defenses, and even the attitudes of many social classes towards other people... all before you're even a quarter of the way through the book. In all seriousness, it's difficult to adequately describe just how much content and detail this book has. You don't truly understand it until you've actually read through it (and what fun that is, because it really gets your imagination going).

Endzeitgeist has already detailed this book with his usual attention below, so I won't bore you by repeating all of those details. What you should know is that Bard's Gate is a location that works as a true home for your campaign - a place for multiple adventure teams to explore, and an area that becomes more than just a place to buy and sell things before heading off on their next quest.

This book fully deserves the 5-star rating I'm giving it. Frog God Games is unquestionably one of the best third-party publishers, and this is the book focused on the cornerstone of their entire setting. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill... but they've succeeded with aplomb. If you're looking for an immaculately-detailed home for your players where there will always be something else to do and someone else to meet, this is it.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This colossal TOME clocks in at 535 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/introduction, 1 page advertisement/product checklist, 3 pages of ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page obituaries, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 524 pages of content.

Yeah, I know. You expected Northlands Saga first. Well, while I was digging through THAT massive tome, I was asked by several people to cover this monster first. So I listened, put Northlands Saga on the back-burner (its review should hit site early 2017) and instead started devouring this massive tome. So consider seeing this first to be basically me listening to the vox populi.

Ahem. Let that page-count sink in. To call this book "enormous" or by any other name than "TOME" in allcaps, does not do it justice.

All right, but frankly, there are enough big city sourcebooks that simply weren't that good. Is Bard's Gate different? Well, we begin with one component often ignored in city sourcebooks, namely the fact that they do not end at the city's wall. Thus, bard's gate, as presented here, does not exist in a vacuum - the valley of the lyre, situated in Frog God Games' Lost Lands, is where we first turn our gaze upon opening this vast book: Within this context, we are introduced to Bard's Gate's suzerainty before getting a recap of technology levels found in the Lost Lands. Beyond the copious amounts of information pertaining unique places and adventuring potential, the book follows the precedence of the Borderland Provinces and the legendary Sword of Air in that it provides a vast array of random encounter tables by area and goes beyond that.

In stunning full color, we receive the local map, both as part of the over-arcing region and in a more detailed, iteration - from the valley of shrines and the region first featured in the by now legendary Tom of Abysthor (available for PFRPG in the Stoneheart Valley-book) we move towards the mining operations of the vast metropolis, learn about entrances to the underworld, abandoned villages now held by gnolls and barrows containing unique undead barbarians. Forests that are haunted by undead treants, the fully mapped citadel of griffons (and yes, other citadels have different maps) - there is ample of adventure to be found beyond the confines of the city.

It is only natural, then, to assume that the place obviously features more than a few individuals to defend its interests. From the lyreguard (Harpers, anyone?) to more mundane agents of law enforcement, navy, etc. to the various guilds, the book proceeds to acquaint us with the power players of the region: From coopers and shipwrights to solicitors and barristers and wheelwrights, the attention to detail provided is impressive; more impressive than the level of detail, though, at least for me, would be the fact that even these seemingly mundane organizations maintain a density of adventuring potential and story hooks that adds perfectly to the general notion of a world wherein the downfall of society's structures may be one adventuring group failing away. In the time-honored words: "Evil watches, evil waits. Goodness stumbles, evil takes."

This is not supposed to mean that this is a grimdark supplement; quite the contrary. It just means that there is enough for adventurers of all level to do. If you, for example, have been intrigued by the underguild, first featured in "Vampires & Liches" and updated to contemporary systems in "Quests of Doom I", then you'd be in the right place.

It should also be noted that this book, in spite of its copious level of detail, is very much cognizant of recent developments in the game: We can find, for example kinteicists or similar classes among the numerous NPC-builds. Similarly, from masked guilds of assassins to an order of female paladins, plenty of beings with whom to interact.

Now, as you may have noted if you've been following my reviews for some time, you'll notice a certain proclivity for details, for politics and intrigue: Well, rest assured that notes on the latter components indeed are provided and should keep groups busy for pretty much any time-frame you wish. More important in an age wherein kingdom building, downtime rules and the like exist, would be the fact that the pdf actually provides property values and taxes by district - including costs of upkeep! I absolutely adore this often-neglected component that no other city sourcebook, at least none I have recently read, covered in this way.

Speaking of aspects that made the simulationalist GM in me smile from ear to ear and jump up i my chair: Know how I commented on The Lost Lands in the Borderland Provinces books as a region that felt more plausible, more believable than in pretty much any other setting I had encountered in a while? Well, there was one aspect so far only Midgard got right (though it could have been emphasized more) - in earlier ages, social class was significantly more important than even today. Well, this book acknowledges a great catalyst of both adventuring and roleplaying and provides DETAILED rules for determining social class and wealth: Beyond class, race and ethnicity as determinants, rules for gossip, drops for in- and decreases in social status make for an amazing section, also since starting attitudes are determined by class - so yes, in this book and the Lost Lands in general, there may actually be a good reason to send the rogue to deal with the homeless, the paladin to deal with royalty. This may not sound like much, but I've been playing with my own homebrew social class rules and they have been a superb catalyst for roleplaying.

But this is a city sourcebook, in spite of the copious coverage of material beyond the city: As such, it should be noted that each and every district of the city can be found within these pages: From the tent city and stable row to the market district, each of the districts not only provides statblocks for local beings and notes on remarkable places alongside detailed maps of the respective environments, we also receive notes on local characteristics.

Beyond the glorious full-color artworks of the respective chapters depicting the districts, it ultimately would be the people that populate the city of Bard's Gate that render it evocative: From strange mages to notorious doppelgangers, the city presents a strange amalgam of mythological resonance and the fantastic established within the canon of the world: From the pied piper myth to the shapeshifting Grandfather; numerous fully mapped temples (including bacchae) , vampire hunters on the run...there are so many fully statted NPCs and hooks within this tome that even attempting to list them all would frankly be an exercise in futility. Just rest assured that, no matter your preferred themes, chances are you'll find their representation within the pages of this book.

The city, though, is something else: It can be read, provided you know where to look, as Frog God Games' love letter to the amazing community that supports the company, that supports the hobby: If you know where to look, you'll not only find the names of publishers and authors herein; you'll also find Tenkar's Tavern, the amazing old-school site's representation here. And yes, a humble medium that, coincidentally shares some traits with yours truly, can also be found within these pages. I won't lie - reading that entry was indeed humbling. To be immortalized in a book of this caliber is indeed amazing. (So yes, if you ever wanted to kill me by proxy in your game - there you go!)

More than 20 pages of NPCs, from the general to the specific, are featured in the first of the appendices, only to be followed by exceedingly detailed random encounter charts (including charts to determine attitudes of drunken folks!). New magic items galore as well as the spider domain and its associated spells add further material for those of us craving crunch. Speaking of which: Beggar NPC-class, baby! Oh, and a killer PrC, the disciple of orcus archetye and two racial variants can be found herein: The street dwarf and the wood elf. Both races are well-crafted, though the absence of age, height and weight tables for them constitutes one of the few gripes I could field against this book.

Even after all of that, we have barely reached page 387 - so what do we get beyond that? Well, adventures, obviously! And I'm not talking about the usual half-assed back-of-a-setting-book modules...after all, this is Frog God Games we're talking about. We're also not talking about 1 module...we're talking about 7.

All right, since to cover these, I need to go into SPOILER-territory, from here on out, I'd ask potential players to jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, the first one would be Crommlen's Ghosts, intended for characters level 1 - 3 and is about a mysterious group of raiders harassing the tent city district of the city, doubling basically as a means of introducing the PCs to the region. Via various rumors and interaction and, ultimately, their brawn, the PCs will have to deal with these dread raiders in an old salt mine...and in the course of events unearth the leitmotif of "all evil needs to triumph is ignorance/a lack of empathy."

A matter of faith, intended for characters level 3 - 6, puts the PCs on a trail of missing kids from the poorer sections of town, and in the process of the investigation, confronts them with the vast evil of a horrid child-slave-ring that needs to be purged...but how to go about said business? The schism between factions of an otherwise good church can potentially lead to a whole campaign worth of follow-up material. Have I mentioned that Dropsy the clown makes one of the most disturbing villains I've seen in a while or the cool gondola chase?

"The Over and the Under" would be a change of pace from politics and social issues. Intended for 5th to 7th level PCs, the adventure is basically a heist that is surprisingly well-structured regarding its preparation options; think of this basically as Ocean's 11 in a fantasy casino. Yes, I liked that...and, if you want to, you can make that also a nice module to send the PCs off to riches beyond belief (read: untimely deaths) in Rappan Athuk.

At the same level-range, we receive a cat-and-mouse themed module that centers around retrieving a magic item and sewer/tunnel-crawling as well as rescuing a captured priest of Bast...which coincidentally means that it would also fit pretty much perfectly within the Southlands-context, but that as an aside.

A fully-depicted black market basement would be up next (it doubles as basically a mini-module, if you choose to run it as such), before the level 8 Gnoll Fortress follows up on the gnoll raiding party featured in "The Stoneheart Valley" and gives them their proper due: And do NOT believe that these threats will be easy to eliminate: A lot of individuals sport class levels and with ettins etc. included in the mix, dealing with this constant threat to the region is most assuredly a task that will not come easy to the PCs.

"The Hidden Huscarl", for characters level 8 - 10, would be an amazing bridge from the city of Bard's Gate to the frigid regions of the Northlands Saga. The module focuses on finding a missing Northlander captain, who has crossed a powerful crime lord of the city...promptly dropping the man in his personal oubliette, a dungeon wherein not only ossuary golems, but also a vampire torturer need to be bested to win the freedom of the missing captain. (Which, coincidentally, also puts them on decent terms with a powerful jarl...)

"Slip-Gallows Abbey", intended for 10th+ level characters, deals with the exploration of the eponymous place: The result, among other things of the hubris of mortals believing they'd be capable of screwing over the dread entities of the city of brass, it is a highly-lethal dungeon-crawl through the cursed and shadow themed place.

Now the maps of this book deserve special mention: Full-color and gorgeous, they come with regular and key-less, player-friendly iterations of both the massive city, its environments, AND the locales featured in the city's write-up and the modules, providing maximum usefulness to the city and its environments.

Part II of my review can be found here!


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