For every ounce of goodie you find in City Works you'll have to dig through a ton of esoteric garbage to get there
I found myself going glass eyed and wishing that I had more alcohol in the house
Tone is absolutely everything when it comes to running Dungeons and Dragons
That's a recipe for disaster.
The key to setting a good tone for an adventure is to strike the right balance between too much detail and not enough. You need to be evocative with just enough verisimilitude to not alert your players of where things are going. But if you're trying to do too much you will screw it all up.
Urban Adventure Basics (pg 112 - 119) is a great resource for new Dungeon Masters and an okay review of the process of adventure writing. Again he is overly detailed but the kernel is good and worth digesting. Just don't get your head wrapped up in all the mess he chucks on the page.
The Urban Environments section (pg. 119 - 126) is an okay resources but he really tries too hard to provide rule mechanics for every situation that you can come across. I don't need a mechanic for the chase or for going in the sewers. A simple description of each of these environments without mechanics would have been a better use of the page. That's true for far too much of this book.
Urban Events (pg 127 - 134) is a mixed bag. You have rules for fires (pg 127), floods (pg 128-129), and riots (pg 131 - 133) which are essentially useless in most games as any good Dungeon Master is going to have those events move according to the players actions dramatizing the play as much as possible with the players' enjoyment foremost in his mind rather than worrying about the rules associated with such events. But then you have the plague (pg 129 - 131) and siege (pg 133 - 134) where Mike provides some really interesting ideas about how these sort of events affect the city and game play. Now I don't agree with everything, but there is enough crunch here where I find myself intrigued with where I can go from his starting point.
This chapter is mostly filled with tables for all manner of encounters. Some of them are fantastic but most are not that great in and of themselves. My suggestion is to look at his tables and make your own. Detail the tables for your city and forget the generic crap he left for you.To waste your time fictionalizing these fantastical people who even you don't believe in is the very definition of wasting your time.
Oh, and the Non Player Character creation tables awful. I just hate how piss poor every NPC table I run across is so fucking useless. They barely function and you can make up something better just by thinking about people you've actually seen and encountered in your daily life. To waste your time fictionalizing these fantastical people who even you don't believe in is the very definition of wasting your time. Be a better story teller. Think for yourself and use your experiences to create a dynamic world that your players will believe in as much as they believe in you and your abilities as a Dungeon Master. Using these fucking tables is lazy and spells out disaster for your game. Make the fucking effort to be better.
City Works is a fine product designed to provide you with a framework to build your fantastical cities around. It has some really good resources and couple of classes worth playing any day of the week. But there is a lot of effort involved in wading through this resource. The artwork is nothing special and certainly isn't helping the book - of course it isn't hurting the book either as was the case with Dragons by AEG.I don't regret buying City Works, I'm just not overly thrilled with the experience I've had reading it.
I don't regret buying City Works, I'm just not overly thrilled with the expereince I've had reading it.
Score: 5 out of 10