Review: Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue

Review: Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue

Mike Eaton, Play Unplugged

Be thou not afraid! Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue from Wizards of the Coast is not actually a Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons book. It is an all-purpose resource on the society of everyone’s favorite (mostly) evil dark elves, the Drow.

The genius of this particular product is that it was designed to work with any edition of D&D in your arsenal. This pleased me greatly, as it’s been difficult to get my playgroup through Fourth Edition character creation, and myself through the complexities of mastering a system with powers all over the place.

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue

And as we all know from our reading, the Wizards are working on a new edition, already. This book is just as useful in an AD&D game as it will be when the next edition comes out.

How is that possible? Well! Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue devotes the better part of its pages to abstract, in-game aspects of the great Drow city in its title. Here we have details for each of the great Drow houses, including their bases of operation in the city and their respective goals and members. Adventure ideas abound for those looking to adventure as drow, or simply to infiltrate this great metropolis of the Underdark.

Also included here are the finer points of drow religion (as regards the ruthless spider queen, Lolth), history of Drow in the timeline (not just the events of Fourth Edition Forgotten Realms), intimate details of city life and locations, and opportunities in the Northdark, beyond Menzoberranzan’s borders. Players with no interest in running a game will be most interested in the Drow roleplaying notes in chapter six, which help us in our quest to embrace the darkness. Playing a drow can be taxing; they are so often selfish and cruel, and that role can be a challenge for even a veteran player.

A cruel Drow Priestess of Lolth

For those of you who crave statistics, the book puts forth a few systems for your use, not tied to any one edition. Noble houses are ranked through might, favor, and wealth, and you can choose one of the major houses or create one of your own to challenge the establishment. There is also a meter you can use to learn your “station” in Drow society — how much respect you command. It’s a system of positives and negatives that you can tally to see whether you’re on the level of an honored matron, or the hated Drizzt Do’Urden.

Speaking of Drizzt, fans of the beloved (by players, not Drow!) character will find a wealth of information about him, in here, as it should be — this city is, was, and perhaps ever shall be, his home.

A beautifully illustrated map of the city rounds out this package, filled with lore and systems for any campaign where those dastardly dark elves might appear.

The Breakdown

Positives:

+ Useful in any roleplaying game that features Drow, d20 or otherwise
+ Filled with NPC background and history, as well as generic and adaptable campaign ideas
+ Packed with information about the world of the novels, for folks interested in Drow but not necessarily in roleplaying

Negatives:

– Easy to get bogged down in walls of backstory text — the downside of all the intricate detail
– Takes a lot of mental removal to apply to any world outside Salvatore’s;
– While some of the art is beautiful, it’s hit-or-miss throughout the book;

Folks who don’t play Fourth Edition might consider Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue the most useful D&D book in recent years, while those who do will find its structure and content style familiar and easy to work into any campaign featuring dark elves. The book retails at $29.95, and can be found at your Local Gaming Store today!

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