Calimport Capsule Review by Remy Verhoeve on 14/05/01
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 1 (I Wasted My Money)
One of the least interesting products in the "Forgotten Realms" line.
Author: Steven E. Schend
Line: Forgotten Realms
Page count: 96
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Remy Verhoeve on 14/05/01
Genre tags: Fantasy
Since "Calimport" comes shrink wrapped, one has to trust the words on the back cover: "The City of Glory revealed at last", it says.
After spending hard-earned cash on the product, you remove the shrink wrap to indulge yourself into one of the largest cities of the Realms, and find the following information in the book's introduction:
"Rather than bore you with the trials and tribulations of attempting to fit enough details about a city three times the size of Waterdeep into 96 pages (...)"
Right on, right on. "Calimport" (the product, not the city) lacks the details that can make the city come alive. Running a city is never an easy task for the gamemaster, and it ain't made easier when details are left so sketchy as in this book.
The first part, "First Impressions", contains the most useful information in this respect, including short looks at the structure, look and byways of the city. This is where the GM needs to find the information to make the city come alive in the players' mind - to find visual clues as to exactly how this city looks, feels, and smells. The section is far too short, and the GM must come up with most of the details herself.
Which is the main problem for me, since Calimport is based on a culture I have little knowledge about.
The next section deals with the history of the city, which almost feels like a lecture in, you guessed it, history, with a few fanciful ideas inbetween.
The main bulk of the book is devoted to a chapter titled "The City at Large", about 45 pages of information on the various buildings in the city. Like in other Realms products, there is an "instant building generator" included (roll d10 a few times to create, for instance, a seven-storied brick residence). Needless to say, this generator could be used for any city in any fantasy campaign, and it doesn't add any Calimport flavor.
The city ward keys aren't very exciting either; let's take a look at the Qhibal Sabban (a sabban, while sounding exotic, is described as "an enclosed district or neighbourhood").
According to the book, it's a prosperous and clean neighbourhood, with a lot of merchants. There are gaming halls, a temple, a guildhal, and a garrison, to name a few of the buildings, though they have more "arabesque" titles in the book, like amlakkhan and khanduq. My point is (and I think I've illustrated it enough here): Whether it's called khanduq or heavily fortified business, it doesn't give me anything to make Calimport unique. Except the oriental names of course.
"The Eraré Campaign" is basically a closer look at one of the city's neighbourhoods,um, sabbans, created as a campaign area for the PCs (don't start with 1st level PCs here, though, the average citizen should be at least 10th level to survive all the hazards of this city). In a way, it's the best part of the book, because it goes into some detail (though not with enough visual clues) to aid the DM in running a campaign within the sabban. My players always like to travel, so I couldn't have held them within the city for more than a few sessions, anyway, so personally, the Eraré campaign becomes uninteresting.
"The Armory Arcane" is the obligatory presentation of magical items and artifacts, which I guess is nice for those who need them. Personally, I think the Realms have more than enough already, so this section's also a little uninteresting - if you're into magical items, well of course, you'll like it. Some of the items are pretty cool, like the Qysari Rings.
The last section of the book is "Rumors & Rumblings", two pages worth of scenario starts and adventures at random. I would have thought these things should be worth more than two pages, but reading the ideas there isn't much interesting any GM could make up herself anyway.
The art within the covers is pretty much standard black-and-white fare, though some of the drawings are useful to fill in the missing details I've been complaining about.
Calimport is a city three times the size of Waterdeep; Waterdeep has several guides & a boxed set for gamers to buy, Calimport has 96 pages. This giant, bustling Calimshan city is presented on a map covering - one - page. The inside covers are left blank. As you have guessed, I find this a really poor product.
I like many of the Realms products for second edition AD&D, but "Calimport" just lacks all the necessary elements to be a useful addition to the library.