Freeport: City of Adventure (Revised)

DSCN2098Freeport has been Green Ronin’s signature setting of pirate adventure and Cthulhoid madness since the early days of the d20 System boom. The setting launched with the ENnie award-winning adventure “Death in Freeport”, and has seen several other adventure modules as well as multiple setting expansions centered around the flagship title “Freeport: City of Adventure”. In 2006 the setting went “system agnostic” with the publication of the “Pirate’s Guide to Freeport” which contained no system stat blocks at all. This book was followed (slowly) by a series of “Freeport Companions” for different systems, all containing similar information tailored to different game systems. At this point, the line includes companion books for True 20, 3rd Era (d20 System), Savage Worlds, Pathfinder, and Fate.

In 2013, Green Ronin funded the production through Kickstarter of a single massive tome combining the Pirate’s Guide and the Companion material as well as a metric ton of new stuff produced just for the book. New monsters, new characters, and new adventures all drove the page count of this new volume to a whopping 544 pages, all of it written specifically for the Pathfinder system. The printed copy costs $74.99 if you can lift it. There are two PDF versions; the first is the whole book at $29.99 and the second is the player’s guide, lifting just the classes, gear, and spellcraft from the main book for 133 pages priced at $9.99. The big question is, “Is it worth it?”

DSCN2099If the premise of the setting appeals to you at all, the material is well-written with excellent graphic design. The book looks great. It includes rules for insanity and corruption that allow characters to sell a piece of their soul for increased power. All of the signature classes are revised to keep up with changes in the Pathfinder system, and the monsters are very evocative of the twin themes of pirate adventure and cultic horror. The adventure module is easy to follow and serves as an excellent introduction to the game. The stat blocks are easy to read, the classes are easy to understand, and the rules are all clear and concise. The technical writing on the book is exemplary in its expression of the setting and theme.

My one complaint is the setting material, which is presented in the same kind of dry, history textbook format that has dominated RPG design since the 80s. The city is divided into districts with details about the businesses and personalities dribbled in gazeteer style. The characters are all segregated into a single block of pages disconnected from the geographic locations they influence. It is mildly interesting reading if you’re researching in preparation for a game, but it doesn’t form any kind of coherent narrative at all. Even the historical summary at the beginning of the book is written as if it were an academic paper. At every point that the rules served to reinforce the themes of the book for me, the setting information did nothing to maintain it. As a GM resource, this is all-encompassing and complete. As player material, it’s really pretty dry.

DSCN2100So what do you do if you already have the previous books? (Not that I, um, know anyone like that…) Are the new monsters, characters, and adventures worth the hefty price tag? If you judge the book just on the new material, counting rules revisions as new material, maybe only 25% of the book cannot be found elsewhere. And of the revised material, much of it can be had from the player’s guide excerpt. This book replaces both the Pirate’s Guide and the Companion for Pathfinder, and includes quite a lot of material about the cults as well, without actually being a reprint of “Cults of Freeport”. The Pathfinder, True 20, or 3rd Era player will find much of interest in this volume. Unfortunately there is little to appeal to fans of Savage Worlds or Fate that cannot be had from other sources for a much lower price. For the completist, this volume is absolutely essential. For the casual fan, it’s more likely to be a PDF or player’s guide purchase.

Welcome to Freeport! Come for the pirates, stay for the cosmic horror!

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