Perhaps I am just more aware of the negative press and complaining about Vorhnheim, but it has begun grating at me because it has not seemed to be actual complaints about the product but about it's author.
I figured I would do a few posts to give my view on the product, keep in mind this is just my 2 cents worth and it may be very very wrong.
Vornheim does not appear to be written for use with the type of game that I tend to run. It is set to appear quite a bit stranger and more surreal than I would normally run a city. This however is not a hidden feature of the product, it is also not really that large of a hindrance. The sample locations it gives (the immortal zoo, the Medusa's house, the library) are all strange in their own right, but plopping one of those locations in a faux historical medieval world would not be out of place. It would make that area strange and adventure worthy, but it wouldn't alter the character of your entire game world in all its historical knock-off glory. Likewise many of the charts and tables are perfectly fine to roll on every now and then to add some detail to such a game. Worthwhile for when you want to get a random tavern name, or backwater custom, or name of a random book a PC steals.
Summed together however and Vornheim paints a world that is much stranger than I would normally set for a game. Reading through it and it struck me as a mix of Necromunda and Gormanghast. This however is required for Vornheim to function as it's stated purpose as a city adventure kit. Cities are boring, dull, predictable and safe. That is why so many people live and work there, dreaming of their picket fence and comfortable retirement. Adventurers leave the safety of cities to go die in some god-forsaken jungle or trap laden underground complex filled with monsters. If you want there to be city adventures, then the city has to be at least as dangerous and mysterious as any dungeon. By nature a city has to be somewhat safe for the average person, that would seem to mean the mystery would need to be cranked up to 11 to compete with a dungeon. So if I were to think about plopping Vornheim down in a campaign world somewhere, I would use the same logic for location as I would an ancient tomb complex, or a skull island. It would have to be somewhere PC's go to, explore and either leave with riches or die trying.
This has some really great things to sink your teeth into mechanically. Many of the die mechanics are superb, using the die rolls for far more effective 'seeding' than traditional numerical charts. The inclusion of the physical location of the dice as a seed element is utterly brilliant. The 'Chase' system is quick and effective, but I doubt I would use it personally just due to mechanical differences in how I run chases and escapes. The item cost mechanic is a good one I happen to enjoy, it very neatly meshes in with the simple cost mechanics I use and its fairly easy to remember.
My personal favourite though is "God's Chess", as that was a common movie motif for me growing up. So many films I enjoyed had similar events.
Example monsters and areas!
These were definitely interesting enough, but I won't spoil anything for those still waiting on their copy. What was important was that monsters did not contain stat blocks in neat formatted little charts next to the creature. This did not bother me, but then again I also attribute stat's to monsters in response to the description of the monster. For my use, Vornheim is overkill as simply saying "Its a giant M*&^%F$(*&!@ ape with laser eyes!" is enough for me to stat up a giant laser ape in a few seconds. Other systems may not handle that as well. This brings me to..
I didn't really have a problem with the layout of the text, or the fonts or the borders or any such thing. It did not prevent me from reading it and gaining the knowledge contained within (the only real purpose of formatting, grammar, spelling and the like is to facilitate that end). So I really didn't see an issue there, it wasn't hard on my eyes or anything, and its not like misspelling "Challenge" as "Challange" once in the entire book is going to render me unable to grasp useful details. One thing that did irk me in reading through Vornheim the first time was the charts all being in the back, as reading the description for the how the chart is to be used then flipping to the back to look at the chart became annoying. That said, for actually USING the book at the game table it is a superior method of organization.
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