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Vornheim – A Quick Review

September 4, 2011

Vornheim Cover

Cover of the Vornheim Book

Picked this book at GenCon for around $17 after hearing some good things online about it. It’s supposed to be a toolkit for building quick city encounters and is billed as ‘The Complete City Kit’.

It’s a quick read. The book is digest sized (8.5 x 6) and 64 pages in length with a good portion of the book made up of random charts. The book is also in hardback but there’s a functional reason for this which I will get to in a moment. It’s also quite possibly the most bizaare gaming product I have ever purchased since ‘Whispering Vault’, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Your generic fantasy city guide this is not.

There’s a lot of what I would call over the top ‘whimsy’ in this product that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. You want a dinosaur with a metal ball and chain for a head? It’s in there. Want a world where the skin of any snake or serpent can be read for knowledge? It’s in there. The most powerful religion in Vornheim is the Church of Vorn – the “Grim Gaunt God of Iron Rust and Rain”…why would anyone worship such a deity? Never explained.

There are 3 site based adventures which surprised me, I was expecting all city information. The adventures are rather quirky and weird and do go along with the general theme and tone of the book. However, they are too bizaare for my tastes. They are also rather light on detailed information, but since I would never use any of them this was fine – the less info devoted to adventures the more room for city info. The adventures aren’t a complete waste though, they had a couple of interesting ideas that I might use.

The book has some good ideas and some rules and items I will use. I like several of the charts including “NPCs”, “Encounters” and “I Search the Body”. These will get some use. The Urbancrawl rules are simple but effective, as are the rules for populating streets with buildings. I like how the author thinks ‘outside the box’ when coming up with rules for resolving issues quickly. Which bring us to the book – I love how the physical book is set up – the dust jacket has a city map on the back (though you can also download a different version). Both the front and back covers have charts that allow you generate both a number of encounters and a number of combat results quickly. Both could prove very useful.

The game has an ‘old school’ feel, especially how the monsters are set up, but the author (Zak S.) also provides a page for D20 conversions, which was a very nice touch.


There is a fine line between between something being imaginative and something being just plain weird and that line is different for everyone, Vornheim often crosses my ‘line’. That said, I do like some of the quirkiness and whimsy. Overall, there’s some good stuff here. I’ll definitely get some use out of the book, which is more than I can say for many gaming products that I’ve picked up over the years.

On a scale of 1-5, I’d give it a 3.5.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 5, 2011 2:14 pm

    Interesting! I’ve heard the dude on multiple podcasts, and no doubt he has his own drummer. Glad to hear your opinion on it.

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