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12 Fortresses & Strongholds Map Set $4.95
Average Rating:3.3 / 5
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12 Fortresses & Strongholds Map Set
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12 Fortresses & Strongholds Map Set
Publisher: Stainless Steel Dragon
by Mike H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/19/2007 12:45:11

I just thought I might chime in here. I am an old school gamer. I have been playing D&D, GURPS, RoleMaster, and WarHammer since the mid 80s.

I got these maps. I printed them out. They look sharp. The most detailed I have ever seen at this scale. Whole cities illustrated as if architect drew them. This set, as the name suggests is focused on "heavily" fortified castles.

I have some high level players in my game world who think they can walk/fly over anything in their way. (Some ride dragons.) They are in for a big surprise! Some of these maps, especially the vault, are laid out to be serious death traps for foolish adventurers and would be thieves. Finally my players might have to think their way past a problem. These maps will save me hours of work. I would strongly recommend them to anyone who likes detail and who has treasure and/or kingdoms in their worlds that they want to defend from all monsters and/or adventurers.

Lord Mike, DM

[5 of 5 Stars!]
12 Fortresses & Strongholds Map Set
Publisher: Stainless Steel Dragon
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2007 07:45:26

12 Fortresses and Strongholds Map Set is a 22 page pdf product featuring more than a dozen maps suitable for any fantasy campaign setting. This product is one of several map sets presented by The Stainless Steel Dragon, although one of the first to appear in pdf form. This map set contains 16 maps of 12 different fortresses and strongholds, detailed with all manner of things within each map and each one also easily printable on a single page.

The product comes as a single pdf file that doesn't contain any bookmarks, nor a table of contents. The product includes useful front and back covers, although like the rest of the product the look and feel is quite dated. The very first page contains a rather stern copyright warning, and, if you're like me, you'll probably not appreciate being shouted out in bold letters with multiple exclamation marks. Given the fact that the second page contains an advertisement to buy their other products, I was not sure this pdf was off to the greatest start.

The product itself is made up entirely of maps, with no introductory or other text apart from that already mentioned (and the blurb on the back cover). The maps are dated, like they were drawn on a computer from 20 years ago, and are entirely in black and white. Each map is presented on a single page, with a small title at the bottom of the page. This should allow for easy printing. Overall, the product looks decent, if you can look past the dated maps to their content, and the rather uncalled-for shouting about copyright at the start.

The maps cover quite a variety of different fortifications, strongholds and castles. Some of the names (not terrible innovative, but descriptive) include Waterward Castle (built overlooking the docks), the three level Stormguard Mountain Peak Fortress, Castle Dreadnought (with numerous defences and fortifications), and Riverguard Castle (guarding the river, no less). These castles should be easy to insert into any likely location - the product does additionally provide a map of Voldaria where these castles are located, indicating likely locations. Again, this map is even more out of a 80's computer game, with repetitive use of the same icons to construct a larger image on the whole.

The maps themselves are incredibly detailed, including to the finest information such as the swords located on the weapon shop's counter. While this detail is to be appreciated in a sense, it makes the maps more difficult to use by cluttering them quite a lot. Do we really need to know the location of every single horse in the fortification? I found the detail very confusing, particularly because each map doesn't have its own legend, but shares a rather lengthy and detailed two page legend located at the back of the product.

The detail goes further in that there are several different map symbols for many items, such as horses (saddled or not), chests (different sizes), etc. This makes it really hard to identify a type of item as you need to be able to tell all the symbols for each item. The detail does, once you've figured it out for a particular part of the fortification (it's impossible to get an idea of the castle without a lengthy look that dismisses the detail), give one an impressive description of each feature, that you can use to describe that particular aspect of the castle. While the intent was probably to use these on the fly, I'd not consider that. The maps are far too detailed and complicated, particularly because the dated art makes it difficult to discern some features.

The other thing that bothers me about the maps, apart from the clutter, is that the clutter in places is just wrong. I realise we're working on fortification and castles here, but Castle Dreadnought, for example, has 12 catapults to a single tower. And there are six towers. On top of that, each wall has an army of a further 8 catapults. That's more than 100 catapults in a single castle! Which brings up the other point worth mentioning - the maps have no scale. There's no indication what the size of everything is, which makes it more difficult to get an idea of the scope of the castle. One can presumable assume the size based on the size of a horse, for example, but a scale would've been really helpful. Maps without scales are just layouts, not maps.

So, what's good and what's bad about this product? It's got good detail, making descriptions easier, and giving some hints as to the scope of the castle and its occupants. It's also got decent variety in castles, from mountains, to the sea, to rivers, to standard forts. The detail though, is also the product's undoing - far too complicated, far to cluttered, and far too confusing, particularly with the legend at the back of the product, rather than beside the map. Which means you need to print 3 pages for each map - two for the legends, and one for the map. From a medieval perspective the castles are also not realistic, although, for a fantasy castle they could be, barring perhaps the huge number of catapults. Why would you need so many to defend a castle? There are more catapults than there are beds for people to sleep in. Realism is not strong on these maps. There's good and there's bad - unfortunately the latter outweighs the former.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Nutz! The short story- Please go look at a full sized map from this set before you judge. Enough said. Long Story, (Deep Breath) First off, sorry about the bold copyright warning, SSD is new to ePublishing and it seemed like a wise idea at the time. I will be amending the format soon. (Good thing about eBooks they are easily updated.) In regards to maps being black and white. That was done to make it easy to get the highest quality 8x11 inch printouts from a "basic" black and white printer as possible. These maps have a great amount of detail as was mentioned and everything should be clearly visible when printed out with any printer. They actually look pretty nice when printed out with a B&W bubble or laser. The regional bonus map not in the description was added to give users a sense of the scope of things to come. It depicts various cities and dungeons in the works or currently available. (Over 100 available now.) It is black and white by design and dots are shown as roads leading to bridges that lead onward to hundreds of cities and dungeons. Over two million square miles of terrain, it is one of the largest campaign worlds ever mapped to this level of detail. (Region, area, city, building, and the supporting hex maps for combat.) Yes it is iconic, and a little dotty, but I decided to include it anyway for it contains a lot of valuable info for the GM. In regards to the weapons and fortifications of my "Fortresses and Strongholds" map set. Yes, these are Fantasy castles and they are designed to defend against dragons, giants, wizards, and adventurers of various levels. (Or be defended by same.) Some of the maps have show griffon stables, I don't consider this a flaw in a high fantasy marketplace. I have, and will release a Castles & Keeps map set which has more mundane castles. (For those who want weaker defenses and less detail.) In regards to scale, I didn't place a specific scale on them because they are designed to allow GMs to scale them as required. It is assumed that most people with basic problem-solving skills should be able to quickly note that a bed for a normal sized human is about six feet long. Doors about 3.5 feet wide, and by using that rule they can scale these maps to whatever race they like. (Dwarf to Titan if they like.) A map that that can be used for any odd sized creature is better than at map useable by the same sized creature. The important thing is that creatures and items are fairly closely in scale with each other, (beyond that its up to the GM. In regards to detail, I realize some people don't like details. These maps are not for those kind of people. They can buy basic maps from anybody or just make them on their own, they are easy enough to do if that is what you want. SSD map sets are created though intelligent design. They are geared for "Master" gamers (GMs) who won't suffer from information overload when they look at a complex map. As a Game Master for 28 years, I wouldn't use a map with less detail than the ones I sell. I have been using them to run adventures for 18 years and they are very effective at keeping things moving. As every GM knows, if it is not on the map you need to look it up someplace else and that takes time. Or you can make it up on the fly, but that can lead to mistakes. All of which slows down game play, confuses players, and may cause players to drop out of your game. In regards to using a variety of icons to depict details in my maps such as doors, locks, windows, chests, traps, tables, etc. Most of them are very user intuitive. Dragons, griffons, horses, beds, chairs, doors, chests, catapults all look just like they would from an aerial view. There are some things like the types of locks on doors that are more abstract. I do provide a standard dungeon key that I use with "ALL" of many map sets and modules soon to be released. Once you know the key, you can instantly use any map or module my company produces. (Castles, Dungeons, Lairs, Temples, Caves, Mazes, & more.) I have sold thousands of the printed versions of these maps with 100% positive feedback so "most" people who buy them like them for what they are. Some people might think it's a bad idea to have a standardized map icon system that allows GMs to instantly recognize special details in hundreds of maps. I don't. I think the more information a map provides in details the more real that world becomes to me. And when a world is real to me, as the Game Master, it is very real to my players, and isn't that what role-playing is all about? Actually I was shocked at this review. I consider good B&W resolution, a good assortment of highly defendable fantasy castles, excellent details and an easily to use standardized icon system as strengths and not as faults as suggested by this reviewer. Anyone reading the above review, if your looking for detailed maps that will look good and be highly informational when you print them out please take a close-up at a map from this set before you decide. It is the only fair thing to do. I will be including a publisher's sample with this link, use it when possible. I do plan to upgrade my PDF format and add an index, add a little more explanation for those seeking faults, and tone down my copyright notice. (So as not to offend people who might take offense at a publisher BOLDLY protecting his intellectual property. It does seem like a shout doesn't it? :) I do thank the reviewer for that.
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