Review: Book of Lairs: People and Places

Simon Forster makes good product. You can buy it and use it immediately without reading it. If you need stuff to run, he gives it to you.

Affiliate link: Book of Lairs: People & Places

It’s for ACKS, but obviously converting is no problem (I believe the AC conversion is that the ACKS AC is a bonus to whatever the default armor class is).

I buy pretty much all his stuff, and I rarely buy RPG products. That’s as good a recommendation as I can give.

This review will cover his newest book, but it’s applicable to the whole series to some degree.

Here is a sample 4-page sequence, speedily marred. You can still see enough to understand what I’m critiquing.

Map
Map Key
NPCs
Organization & Treasure

The Good

I’ve already talked about what makes these books excellent, and the newest volume participates in that same virtue.

You got a game tonight? Need to start a campaign? Draw some hexes on scratch paper and drop these locations in them. Done.

If you don’t need that, you likely won’t find much of use in the books.

But who doesn’t need that?

Despite my word count’s being focused on The Bad, I want to reiterate that Simon’s material is wonderful and worthy of your few bucks. It is unpretentiously useful.

The Bad

There is room for improvement despite my praise.

Standard Treasure

I have tended to note standard ACKS treasure in the locations, which I think lacks pep.

Unannotated Maps

Needs to have stuff written in the maps. If you want a version you can use in roll20, I’d advise providing an appendix of unannotated maps.

Info Design Flaws

The writeups need more bullet pointing. (OTOH, he does bold important terms.)

And the descriptions need to be organized under relevant headers. Instead of several paragraphs describing different areas and people in the location, the page space should be organized this way:

Area Name

One sentence summary

  • Senses
  • Features

Relationship with Surroundings

Outsiders fear/love/etc. Bullet points, natch.

History

One sentence and/or bullets.

The NPC pages are good, but the info needs to be presented in reverse order. See how the wants, secret, and summary are at the bottom? Put that stuff at the top; it’s the most important info.

Needs More Wordswag

I find the descriptions a bit prosaic. Some specific imagery, even if not describing the scene thoroughly, is more useful and enjoyable than mundane but more complete descriptions.

Example: replace “rare perfume” with “myrrh in spiderweb-motif vial.”

Maps Need Jacquaying

With the exception of the RAINBOW WIZARD’s lair, the maps tend to be too straightforward. They would benefit from more loops, verticality, secrets, and environmental shenanigans.

Summary

It’s good; you can use it tonight without looking at it beforehand.

Get it: Book of Lairs: People & Places

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2 comments

  1. Thanks Daniel. I agree on your bad points, it would help with a bit more organisation. I found that trying to fit everything into the A5 format was a bit tricky using bullet-points and headings, so I went with this instead. I’ll be trying something different with the next one, as that’ll have more room to play with.

    Your comments about the maps rings true too. I have found I’m drawing/annotating my maps with too much emphasis for using with VTTs and the like. Hoping to break out of that habit.

    Hope you review the next one too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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