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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen


A hat-tip to Troy of Socratic Design for mentioning Monte Cook's new setting for Dungeons and Dragons: Ptolus, to be released August 10th of this year. You remember Monte, of course. He's been involved with the gaming industry for almost 20 years, now. His most notable credits include writing Call of Cthulhu D20 and the 3rd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Ptolus is an ambitious project, promising to be "the most deluxe roleplaying game product ever", based on the world used to playtest 3rd Edition D&D. From the website, Ptolus is

...a huge package from Malhavoc Press. It's also the first and longest-running Third Edition campaign setting ever created, where game professionals of all kinds have found both victory and defeat. Ptolus is a city designed to be an entire campaign with an amazing level of detail. This is Monte's home campaign, and the place where many Third Edition rules saw their genesis (or met with their demise). Included in the campaign over the years are such industry celebs as Michele Carter, Andy Collins, Sue Cook, Bruce R. Cordell, Jesse Decker, Erik Mona, Christopher Perkins, Sean K. Reynolds, Keith Strohm, Steven "Stan!" Brown, and Jeff Quick -- editors of Dragon® and Dungeon® magazines, designers and editors of Wizards of the Coast game products, and even the onetime D&D business manager.
It's a massive, fully-detailed setting-cum-adventure pack featuring
  • A 672-page book with more than 130 pages of color artwork and maps, with an embossed cover by artist Tom Lockwood and three bound-in, fabric bookmarks
  • A double-sided, full-color map
  • A package of 16 black-and-white and 8 color player hand-outs
  • Enough adventures to take characters from 1st to 20th levels
  • A CD-ROM with an additional 350 pages of "bonus" material, and
  • Extensive indexing and cross-referencing throughout
It's this last bit that drew my attention. We've all been there before, flipping through the books, looking for where we read that one bit of information we need before we move on with the adventure. If done right, it could be this attention to playability that really sets Ptolus apart. According to the FAQ, it's designed with the GM in mind. "As a longtime DM and DM advocate, Monte has focused extra energy to make this book not only easy, but actually a joy to use." The site even has an in-depth look at what features of the layout make this product special, including:
  • Footnotes with page references for every character, location, and organization as it is mentioned in the text.
  • Color-coded parts and chapters
  • Multiple category-based indexes and a glossary.
  • A highly detailed table of contents, with a mini-table of contents at the beginning of each part.
  • Symbols and artwork used to create mnemonic devices to help manage all the locations.
  • Where appropriate, a notation on each spread to refer you to the page where you can find the map associated with that page's contents.
  • A new, easy-to-use stat block format for NPCs
Based on what the previews look like (Table of Contents PDF/JPG, Section Opener PDF/JPG, Interior PDF/JPG), this attention to detail may set a new standard for how future publications organize and present their material.

The drawback here is that with such lavish production value, the package comes with a hefty $119.99 price tag. But kudos to Cook and company for understanding that hobbyists often have limited budgets. If you preorder by May 31st, you can pay $19.99 up front and then pay in $10 installments until the product is paid in full.

Also, those who preorder Ptolus get a copy that's signed and numbered along with a healthy package of extras, including a 96-page adventure called Night of Dissolution.

All-in-all, it sounds like an impressive package. As of today, DriveThruRPG offers the Player's Guide to Ptolus as a free PDF download. Check it out. I may just have to see for myself whether or not it lives up to its marketing.

Comments on Ptolus
  Comment from Blogger MacFurious at Thursday, May 18, 2006 8:37:00 PM
Very interesting, I'm going to check this out. Let's see if it lives up to the hype :)

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.