A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Bard’s Gate

Bard’s Gate by Casey Christofferson, Clark Peterson and Shane Glodoski is a role playing game supplement published by Necromancer Games. This is a citybook from the Necromancer World setting and, as a consequence, there are quite a few mentions of other locations and supplements from the setting and published by Necromancer Games. Bard’s Gate itself is a city state with military associations to a nearby country. The book was originally intended for the d20 System but, following the end of the d20 License, it is now covered by the Open Game License, with some parts being considered to be Open Game Content. There are also new, expanded, versions of the supplement for Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, published by Frog God Games, who now own Necromancer, along with new material for the setting.

This is a 223 page bookmarked PDF that is available from RPGNow for $18.99, as a print on demand softcover for $26.99 or as both PDF and softcover for $27.99. The book is also available in printed form from sites such as Amazon and is one of the supplements in the Necromancer World Collection, which is how it was purchased. The normal price of the collection is $60 but it was bought at the reduced price of $18.

Two pages of the book are the colour front and rear covers, one page is the front matter, one page is the Table of Contents, two pages are the Preface, which covers what is in the book, the magic level of the setting and how to use it, one page is the Legal Appendix and Open Game License and one page is an ad.

The Introduction gives an overview of the city, with a sidebar giving the city’s stats in the D&D 3.x edition format, a brief history including a timeline, laws, customs, defences, economics, religion, weather, rogues and thieves guilds, a list of abbreviations and an explanation of the sidebar found in the chapter covering each district.

Groups and Organisations covers military, law enforcement, organisations, both regular and secret, and guilds, for this is a city where the guilds are very important.

The city itself is then described, starting with Chapter Two: Tent City, a semi-permanent settlement outside the gates. Unlike the other areas if the city, Tent City has a map of the location included in the chapter itself.

Bard's GateThere are a total of sixteen chapters of locations, including Tent City, each covering a different district. Each chapter on the various districts of the city has a standard sidebar covering Character, Businesses, Prices, Gold Piece Limit, Building Type and Guard Details, whose meaning is explained in the Preface. Most, but not all, of these chapters have an opening on general locations, such as streets and open areas, as well as various important locations which are described in detail, in a few cases with maps of the location in question. Shops and other establishments selling things describe what goods and/or services are available and the non-player characters at the locations are covered in two different ways; the more important ones are referred to Appendix C: NPCs of Bard’s Gate and the less important ones have their stats provided in the chapter itself. The final location, Stable Row, does not appear to have an associated map, despite having several numbered locations. Like Tent City, this is outside the gates.

Chapter Eighteen: Other Locations gives an overview of the, unmapped, sewers, and of the City of Ashes, a cemetery which does have a map in the chapter.

Chapter Nineteen: The Lyre Valley covers the surrounding area, with a map, random encounters and various placed ones. One of the locations in the area is The Tomb of Abysthor and at least one of the wilderness locations is duplicated from that supplement.

Chapter Twenty: Slip-Gallows Abbey is an adventure where players can find out what happened to the now-vanished thieves’ guild known as the Gray Deacons.

Chapter Twenty-One: Gnoll Fortress is another adventure, this time attacking the base of a group of gnolls who are raiding caravans in the area.

Appendix A: God’s of Bard’s Gate (yes, there is a mistake in the chapter title) is divided into major gods, lesser and “dead” gods and non-human and humanoid gods. The gods themselves come from a variety of sources; demon princes, Celtic, Norse and Egyptian mythology, a Lovecraftian deity and gods that would appear to have been created for the setting. The appendix ends with new cleric domains.

Appendix B: New Magic is a collection of new magic items that were referred to in the supplement.

A Map of Bard's GateAppendix C: NPCs of Bard’s Gate has a new class, the Beggar, and a new prestige class, Shadowmask. There are then NPC descriptions, starting with major ones, followed by a minor adventuring party and NPCs from several organisations, then NPCs listed by their city district. Finally there are some standard city NPCs. The NPCs all have their stats and some also have descriptions. Many do not, especially those that were previously described in the district chapters. Some have the descriptions before their stats, others afterwards, which is a bit confusing.

Appendix D: Monsters has a new template and four new monsters, including a new type of orc that doesn’t half sound like an Uruk-hai.

Finally, there are maps of the city; six pages of tiled maps and one, large, map assembled from these.

Bard’s Gate in Review

The PDF is decently bookmarked with major and minor sections linked but it could have been more thorough. The Table of Contents lists the chapter titles, but no more, and is not hyperlinked. Navigation is, on the whole, okay but it could have been better. The text maintains a two column format and a lot of errors were noted. In some parts of the book there are quite a lot of errors in the text – multiple errors in one paragraph on occasion – such as typos, missing text and incorrect words. The whole of the book isn’t like that, just some parts of it, but the standard does seem to deteriorate the further into the book the reader goes. The proofreading quality seems below the standard for what would be expected from a supplement of this length and price. There are a number of black and white illustrations intended to depict various parts of the city.

There is a reference to author and fan created material for adding more locations to the city, on the now-defunct Necromancer Games site and the, unnamed, fan site. Finding this material will probably require a bit of searching and using the WayBackMachine.

Other supplements referenced are Creature Collection Revised and Relics & Rituals, both originally from Sword & Sorcery Studios but which would now appear to be published by Nocturnal & Onyx Path, and Dead Man’s Chest, Tome of Horrors, Vampires and Liches and The Crucible of Freya as well as the previously mentioned The Tomb of Abysthor from Necromancer, as well as a passing mention of the City of Brass. The village of Fairhill from The Crucible of Freya (the village itself is referenced in passing relating to an NPC connected to it and some others who may have been encountered in the area) is reasonably close.

The city itself is well detailed and, despite the description of the surroundings, it could probably be dropped into another setting fairly easily, especially as it’s a city-state not part of a country. Some changes will naturally need to be made, including for things such as gods, but this is definitely possible. It could also be adapted to systems such as Pathfinder, again with a bit of work. Although tied to the Necromancer setting, it is not absolutely essential to use it, but there is now a fair amount of detail for the setting, albeit for a range of systems. Probably what lets the supplement down the most is the numerous errors and sometimes switching how things are laid out within a section, mainly the NPC appendix. At full price, Bard’s Gate is now a bit on the pricey side, especially as there are newer supplements available for more current systems, but at a discount it is certainly an interesting city and, depending on how much work a GM is willing to put in, can be used in other settings. Bard’s Gate can be found by clicking here.

 

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