Sunday, June 19, 2011

Augury - Streets of Zobeck

Streets of Zobeck is an anthology of adventures with a “grim’n’gritty” feel.  Rogues, scoundrels, street gangs, black magicians and the lovable scum of the underworld of the Clockwork City are the theme of this sourcebook.

Streets of Zobeck is a color book with 94 pages, 7 adventures, new locations, NPCs and even rules material. The cover art is by Pat Loboyko – a perfect choice given the supplement’s thematic. Pat’s style is known to the fans of Warhammer 2nd (he’s the artist responsible for illustrating that game's many careers).

The first chapter gives a (false) lukewarm impression: 8 new NPCs, each with full stats. While the concept of each character is interesting, there’s little background to use. Only when you read the adventures you realize their potential. Maybe this chapter should have been placed after the adventures (the same argumento is valid about the second chapter). Talking about it, the next chapter presents 6 new locations of the Clockwork City – usually inns and establishments of dubious reputation.

As mentioned, the previous chapters are just a warming-up. Streets of Zobeck begins to draw attention only with its first adventure. “Everyone Lies” is a classic thieves’ tale, taking place after the execution of a particular dangerous job. All NPCs involved are scoundrels and/or with second intentions. The adventure has an excellent medieval-noir flavor.

The next scenario – “Rust” – is a ghost story with a nice twist and has two of my favorite NPCs of Streets of Zobeck: Mister Corpulent and Master Doldrum. The adventure’s theme fits nicely with the clockwork-style of Zobeck.

“The Fish and the Rose” is the quintessential heist against a powerful political figure. The aspects of invading the “safe” will surely engage the party. “The First Lab” will please fans of Zobeck by revealing a little more of the dark past of the Free-City, specially the revolt against House Stross. The adventure also throws in some horror elements. “Rebuilding a Good Man” is the most morale complex tale and by far my favorite premise; it deals with one of most mysterious NPCs of the book – the Painted Man – and has a nice double-crossing element which, while mostly in the background, can be used by a clever Gamemaster to tempt and test the PCs’ loyalties.

Streets of Zobeck isn’t satisfied with grim’n’gritty/noir, bringing a Victorian flavor to the Free-City with the “Ripper” adventure (with can have a very dark and surprising end if the PCs are greedy). “Flesh Fails” is a scenario involving a love triangle and undeads (a guaranteed success!) and has probably one of the funniest beginnings, by forcing the party to impersonate one of the Arcane Collegium’s Consuls.

Streets of Zobeck also has new material in the form of feats, character traits, spells and magic items.

I must admit that, after books like Tales of the Old Margreve and even the own marketing done by Open Design about Streets of Zobeck, I was expecting a book with a heavier and more mature tone. Blame that on the company’s outstanding work with its previous adventure modules all very are different and innovative. In this aspect, Streets of Zobeck is a more traditional product, bringing short adventures with rich backgrounds. Some of these scenarios – like “Rebuilding a Good Man” and “Flesh Fails” are particularly enthralling, either because of their subject, or because they put the PCs in unusual situations. Fans of Thieves World, The Black Company or Lankhmar won’t be disappointed. I also recommended Streets of Zobeck for those groups that prefer adventures with a conventional structure or that hadn’t played an Open Design product before.