City adventures are always a delight, and here is a brand-new city setting replete with opportunity... a group that gets really embedded into the life of Parsantium could see out their entire adventuring careers without leaving the city limits. Whether it is home, or a place a bunch of country boys and girls arrive at in search of adventure, there is ample opportunity to be found here. Should you be in any doubt, plot hooks are liberally strewn over every chapter bar the first (which is designed to be player-friendly, a good introduction to the city for new arrivals or would-be players of residents.
The idea of a 'city at the crossroads' merely enhances the potential. Think of Istanbul/Constantinople in the real world: different cultures mixing, trading routes crossing and so on. Whether you want to pursue profit, diplomacy or intrigue, there's plenty to do here... and a huge map to help you get it all into context (provided as both a double spread in the PDF and as a whopping JPEG image). The city is located on the border between two continents and no less than five major trade routes meet here. Parsantium itself is build on both continents, which are joined by massive stone bridges, and there are plenty of docks for those who prefer to travel by water, with two oceans and the lands beyond to beckon them away.
More detailed information follows thick and fast. History, Races, and Character Backgrounds - all you need to prepare a character who will fit in and thrive here. Most of the backgrounds, set up so as to allow for suitable traits if it's Pathfinder that you are playing, rely on the character having grown up in or around Parsantium. You may or may not choose to run your campaign this way, as the characters will know more about the city than their players, which can get a bit awkward. Generally, I find it more fun to play new arrivals, thus player and character can both enjoy exploring their new home. Neatly, although the city itself is laid out in glorious detail, the world beyond is painted quite vaguely, thus making it a trivial matter to fit Parasntium into an existing campaign world - or indeed to detail it later once the party shows some signs of wishing to venture outwith the city walls.
Chapter 2: Life in the City explores every angle of what it is like to live, work and play in Parsantium. Government and politics - even if you are not so much a fan of intrigue, the city is home to a massive bureaucracy with which characters will have to interact frequently... and intrigue can be so much fun, whether characters are mixing with the movers and shakers of the city, or just get hired to perform mysterious tasks the significance of which only appear in hindsight! A list of crimes and punishments are included - a mix of appaling barbarity and lenience, depending on what you did. Best not to get caught! A section on Culture and Customs includes all-important information on local cuisine - think Eastern Meditteranean with lots of fish, curries and spice added in - as the locals are united in a love of good food. Clothing, festivals, entertainments - even if not adventuring, there is plenty to keep you busy here!
Now you know the city, Chapter 3: Running a Campaign is jam-packed with ideas to help you organise an enjoyable campaign set in and around Parsantium. Themes can range from intrigue or gang warfare to gladiators or charioteers, delving into the past or trying to effect religious changes... not to mention trading, opening a tavern, joining a guild or working for the government or military. Mixing more than one is often better as it allows for a mix of adventures to suit all tastes. There's a wonderful section on 'the Living City' - how to interweave random and non-plot-related events and the things that pertain to ongoing adventures into a mix that gives the city a life of its own independent of the characters. Many of the events, depending on how the party reacts to them, have the potential to spring into the ongoing plot regardless.
Chapter 4 presents a detailed Gazetteer, and needs to be read in conjunction with the map. Notable locations in each Ward of the city are described, along with hidden places and some of the most important ones outside but near to the city limits. There's also a Hidden Quarter, the underbelly of the city, mostly literally underground. This is followed by Chapter 5: Organisations which introduces the most powerful groups - and naturally, plenty of plot ideas involving them.
The final chapter deals with Religion, providing details of the vast array of deities worshipped in Parsantium. Many are drawn from the surrounding area and the two continents beyond: if your campaign world is already established you may wish to swap in your own faiths to replace these. Or it may be that the ones given here are the names by which your existing deities are known within the city.
Overall, it's a magnificent city and I think I want to visit... see you there!
[5 of 5 Stars!]