I’m sure most of you know you can download a lot of free stuff at DriveThruRPG.com. If not, go to here and you can find a list of all the free stuff they have right now. One of those free downloads was The Adventurer’s Guide to the Imperial City. I was always a sucker for the old City Books from Flying Buffalo, and I loved playing City State of the Invincible Overlord long long ago, so I checked this one out.
It’s 68 pages long and written as a commentary by a mage to a fellow adventurer. It’s a player’s introduction to the City of Miles, purportedly “the greatest city of the world.” It is really too wordy for a player’s introduction; it is more of a walking tour of the city and that is where it is strongest. A map on the last page identifies key sights within the city, which are numbered according to their region. There are seven hills in the city: Pillar, Sword, Wyrm, Peasant’s, Shadow, Wizard’s, and River Hills — and the points of interest are organized under the hill district in which they are found. The number of locations that are detailed are sparse, but cover all of the districts at least briefly. The map shows only the points of interest, not the city’s full layout. The backdrop seems to be a typical D&D setting, in which kobolds run through the forests and elves serve administrative posts within the town.
It is not intended for a referee’s use. Characters have alignments but not stats. Many have back stories, which is most helpful when reading about the Powers that Be, but to make this useful to a referee, there would also need to be an index, the stats for the characters, and a section that listed possible adventure hooks and relevant locations that might be connected with those hooks.
Sordid Stories from the Mother City is the companion piece to the Adventurer’s Guide. There are stats and levels for the NPCs. The system seems to be some form of D&D, but the version they are playing is never laid out completely, even in their wiki. They have weapon and non-weapon proficiencies, which means it is 2nd edition or later. NPCs have their gear listed as well as magic items, special abilities, spells prepared, and xp value when you off him (as adventurers are wont to do). The adventure is not fully laid out, but enough elements and gateway events are given for a referee to run the adventure in the city of Miles.
The illustrations are of mixed quality, with a reliance on medieval clip art. But the stories and characters hold together, so your players will like these most if they are more interested in playing their roles than in accumulating xp. The writing in both works of these is informal but readable and without grammatical errors. If you’re looking for a free city in which to base your adventures, and you don’t have time to develop your own, use this one and then buy the City Books to add to it. If you have the cash, go for the City State of the Invincible Overlord, as it is much more detailed.