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d20 - Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire 07.09.2007
Saving Throw's review of Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire.

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Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire
published by Malhavoc Press reviewed by Martin Drury
670 pages, 2006, $119.95
Content 20
Organization 20
Consistency 20
Intelligibility 20
Critical Hit
Review Scoring

   If there was ever a source book that could be said to contain everything you need to run a campaign, it would have to be Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire. At a whopping 670 pages, before adding the supplemental CD-ROM materials, it is also one of the biggest gaming books ever printed. The book is divided into seven sections, containing 36 chapters, which are sandwiched between the introduction and appendix.

Part one contains just one chapter, and is appropriately titled "Ptolus Player's Handbook." This chapter contains all the information a player will need to get started in a Ptolus campaign; from a brief overview of the city, organizations and religion to character creation, magic and equipment, this section has it covered. This section is also provided as a PDF on the supplemental CD-ROM that can be provided to the player.

Part two is entitled "Background" and provides the Game Master with all the nitty gritty information about the world outside of the city of Ptolus. Here is where the Game Master can turn to find out the history of the planet Praemal, the lands around Ptolus, the languages spoken, races common and not so common, the dominant religions (and the ones hidden behind the scenes), and the organizations that dominate the day to day life in Ptolus. Just skimming through this section reveals the scope and the depth of thought that went into creating Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire and at the same time only just scratches the surface of what is available.

Part three is the City Guide to Ptolus. Fully one-third of the chapters, and just over forty percent of the pages, are devoted to this in-depth look at the various districts of Ptolus. Each chapter presents the Game Master with details on who lives in the particular district, what forms of industry (if any) are based there, and which organizations dominate. The helpful "man on the street" section provides the Game Master with a quick NPC to answer any questions the player's might want to ask the citizenry.

Part four covers the Dungeon, the area below Ptolus that includes the Undercity, the sewers, the caverns and Dwarvenhearth, the ancient city of the dwarves. Each area is detailed, including who lives there, what goes on in each section and what dangers lurk in the dark. With campaign advice and scenarios, a Game Master can easily spice up a Ptolus urban campaign with a quick run to one of the areas under the city, or run a whole campaign without the player characters ever having to see the light of the sun.

Part five is the opposite of part four, in that it covers what is above the city. In other words, it covers what can be found in and on the spire that makes Ptolus famous throughout Praemal. The history of various towers and fortresses, along with scenarios are included for the Game Master.

Part six covers aspects of being a citizen of, and living in, the city of Ptolus. What people wear, what they eat, where they live, how much it costs to live in Ptolus and how technology aids or hinders life is what this section is all about. It also details the lives of delvers (adventurers) and crime and punishment.

Part seven covers all the game mechanic details a Game Master needs to run a campaign set in Ptolus. This section provides information for urban campaigns, four sample adventures, new monsters, information about how magic functions in the world of Praemal, and eight new prestige classes. This section's six chapters provide excellent insight on how to tie the rest of the book into a nice, coherent campaign.

Also included is a helpful appendix, including a glossary, a list of friends and foes, helpful "using" articles and the always popular index. Finishing up the book is an envelope and CD-ROM containing maps, the player's guide in PDF format, other handouts for players, and an assortment of other Ptolus supplements.

Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire is chock full of high caliber illustrations, sidebars, and maps to fully immerse the players and Game Master into life in the city. It also includes a handy "third column" on each page that includes cross-references, notes and other not quite essential, but oh so helpful information. Combined with excellent writing and just the right amount of detail, it helps make Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire the closest thing to perfect that exists in the world of table top gaming. In fact, the only detracting factor when it comes to this masterpiece is the price. At a suggested retail price of $119.95, most gamers simply cannot afford to buy it, or at the very least, have a difficult time justifying paying that price. However, a solid gaming group of four-five players and one Game Master might find splitting the cost five/six ways makes it a little more stomachable.

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