One of the founders of our hobby and one of the most unsung contributors to Dungeons & Dragons, Len Lakofka has passed away at the age of 76.
Along with the many adventures, classes, spells, and rules he created, Len was also father of the Suel in Greyhawk, designer of their gods, and namesake of the Lendore Isles.
The value of his work goes without saying, but his presence will be sorely missed. The adventures of Leomund go on.
At Gencon 2007, I purchased two accessories for Troll Lord’s Castle Zagig setting - 1) The Free Town of Yggsburg: Town Halls; and 2) The Free Town of Yggsburg: Moat Gate. Unfortunately, Troll Lord Games forgot to include the maps for these products when heading for Gencon. When I purchased the titles, they indicated they would be mailing the maps to me but I have not received them yet. I just inquired after them today, as a matter of fact. When these titles hit stores, the maps should be included.
Before discussing the individual products, a couple of general notes are in order.
First, both products are very good. If you liked the old Village of Hommlet, you will like these two titles, as they are similar in style, approach and flavor. That’s high praise, btw. Of note, however, the Yggsburg titles have a pronounced Olde English vibe that Hommelet did not, just so you know.
Second, both titles have certain bawdy or ribald bits scattered throughout. Prostitutes and sex are not shied away from. Town Halls has a sense of humor about this, see entry for Mr. Lewis on p. 12, while Moat Gate is more straight ahead.
Town Halls presents the city center, the center of government, for Yggsburg and is altogether the better book. Despite its dry seeming topic, Town Halls is very lively, very playable and not confined to “government” exclusively. Written by Canonfires own Ghul, Greyhawk shines through Town Halls in a way not encountered in Moat Gate.
The Isle of the Ape gets a nod on p. 16. Gord the Rogue puts in a sotto voce appearance on p. 27. The Olman receive a passing glance on p. 28. Of course, there are typically Gygaxian plays on names, see e.g., pp.29 and 33.
Also spicing up the title are references to the Cthulthu Mythos on p. 34 and Gaxmoor on p. 39. In short, there are plenty of “easter eggs” that are pleasantly encountered within the text.
In one particular, Town Halls achieves brilliance with an idea so obvious when presented that I was simply stunned that I had not thought of it despite having gamed since 1979. The Ball and Mallet on p. 11 now finds a place on my list of town references. Nicely “played.”
Somewhat more “iffy” is a reference on p. 33 to “Roman Tuscan” style architecture. This is a direct earth reference from which one is lead to ask, “Does this mean there is a Rome in the setting and a Tuscany?” The reference makes the image clear but seems to imply a great deal beyond the description. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is unusual in most gaming products.
In the same way, the presence of actual historical persons, like Thomas Crapper, raises an eyebrow. Such are, however, minor quibbles that do not detract from the work. The Free Town of Yggsburgh: Town Halls gets a solid thumbs up as a “must buy” if you have purchased Castle Zagig and/or if you are a fan of the Village of Hommlet.
Moat Gate, for the same $9.95, is a more guarded thumbs up, in part because it suffers by comparison to Town Halls.
Moat Gate does not have all the easter eggs of Town Halls. It is notably less Greyhawkian, but still favorably invokes the Village of Hommlet feel.
Troubling are the pages of “apartment entries” that add little to the text while padding the page count, see e.g., p. 22 and pp. 36-37. Given that Moat Gate runs to 44 pages, as compared to Town Halls 52 pages, and that Town Halls has no filler, Moat Gate again suffers by comparison.
Finally, the author of Moat Gate's idea of clever appears to be pop-culture references. Thus, we have the cast of the old Magnum PI show appearing in the text wearing very, very thin “disguises,” see p. 29. This is just silly. When compared to Town Halls excellent easter eggs, Moat Gates Magnum PI riff is just bad.
Still, Moat Gate is overall a good product and a must buy if you own Castle Zagyg and/or like the style and feel of Village of Hommlet.
The Town of Yggsburgh series, of which both Town Halls and Moat Gate are the first two entries, will eventually flesh out in detail each of Yggsburg’s districts. If they keep the excellent style of the first two, Yggsburgh will be Hommlet’s bigger brother. For me, a huge admirer of Hommlet, this is nothing sort of fantastic. Yggsburgh will be a classic fantasy city, not just a town, in the classic Gygaxian style.
I recommend both Town Halls and Moat Gate highly. If you want to sample, Town Halls is the better of the two and the place to start. _________________ GVD
I have the Yggsburgh hardback book. On Troll Lords Web site, I don't see either Town Halls or Moat Gate, but Eastmark Gazetteer and several others.
Do you have the other books? If so, what's your take on them?
Thanks for the insight on Town Halls, and if written by a CanonFire-ite, then it's a must in my book.
Theocrat Issak _________________ Theocrat Issak
The 2 town modules for Yggsburgh that were released at Gen Con (Moatgate District and Town Halls District) were printed in small quantity for sake of Gen Con availability. As I understand it, the Trolls will soon have these printed in much larger quantity, also including the maps and floor plans that did not make it to the con. Once these are set, I'm sure they will be solicited; perhaps sooner if they solicit them for pre-order.
I appreciate the review, GVD (check's in the mail). :)
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