Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review: Freebooter's Guide to the Razor Coast

When I won both the Razor Coast setting book and the Freebooter's Guide back in May, I decided to tackle the Freebooter's Guide first. For one thing, it was shorter. For another, I wanted to use it to get the feel of the Razor Coast before I sailed into the meat of the campaign setting. At about fifty pages, it’s still a bit of a read for most players, but it’s very informative.

I didn't mean for it to take me 8 months to post about it...

The Razor Coast feels very much like the writers took Hawaii and plopped it in the Caribbean. Now, I’m perfectly ok with that, since it really lets you play with some of the normal expectations from a setting called Razor Coast. It brings in some interesting flavor to what might otherwise be a typical and maybe even a little boring pirate setting.

One of the other things I really appreciate about the Razor Coast is that it doesn’t shy away from some of the more touchy aspects of the setting. There is a real clash of cultures going on between the colonists and the natives, and it's bloody.

It’s hard to think of a 50 page setting book as being an overview, but that’s what this one really is. It’s written for players… but I don’t know that many players who’d willingly plop down the cash or the time to read 50 pages for a game. Then again, I don’t hang out with Pathfinder players.

In the OSR, you’d generally expect that in 50 pages you’d get a full setting, not an overview, and that’s what this one really is.

No, you’re not imagining things. I wrote that the Freebooter’s Guide is both a player’s overview and a full campaign setting. How is that? Is’t a matter of perspective. For someone who’s in deep with the fine detail level of granularity that games like Pathfinder offer, 50 pages is nothing. Especially when there aren’t all that many rules in it. Now, this is the Swords and Wizardry version, so I don’t know how rules intensive their version of the Freebooters Guide, but I can’t imagine it’s that much more, unless it's a very different book.

For the more broad strokes sandboxy type OSR Dungeon Master, the 50 page Freebooter’s Guide provides everything you’d need to run a game without it bogging you down in detail that’ll either never show up in, or isn’t quite right for your game.

So what exactly is in the Freebooter’s Guide?
Races (Human, natives, mutant natives, short natives, half-orcs)
A Brief History
Port Shaw (aka the big city of the Razor Coast)
Organizations (4 different groups)
Religions (13 new gods with nice writeups)
Equipment (Pistol! Cutlass! Drugs!)
Spells (11 new ones)
Magic Items (12 items, 13 tatoos)
Appendix I: Flora & Fauna (3 new monsters)
Appendix II: Gazetteer
- 5 land locations
- 19 sea locations

The art is all really solid. The map is highly evocative (see above), with some great names that just cry out to be made into swashbuckling adventures, most of which get at least a couple of paragraphs in the gazetteer.

I only have 2 complaints. First are with the excess of adds taking up the last couple of pages. I can't blame them for including them, I just don't like it much. Second, there are also a few spots where a chapter would end and most of a page would just be blank. Seems like wasted space that could have been put to use.

I would definitely recommend picking this up if you're thinking of running a pirate campaign. It's well worth the cost.

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