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Review: The Town of Nywhere, a Pathfinder Mini Setting + Adventures

The Town of Nywhere was written by Jeremy Cusker and published in 2013 by Murder of Crows Publishing. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I received my copy of the product from the author with a request that I review it. You can purchase a copy of the pdf from DriveThruRPG for $7.00 USD.

nywhere cover

What is it?

The Town of Nywhere is a 65 page pdf product produced for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It introduces the GM to a town that can be dropped into any campaign setting or established world and includes 3 short adventures to get the party involved in the town.

The first 16 pages describe the Town of Nywhere. This includes its rulership and main political players, popular local establishments and personalities, a couple of guilds, laws and law enforcement, discussion of the sewers and caverns below Nywhere, and some notes on technology and culture.

The next 6 and a 1/2 pages contain adventure 1: Stitched, in which a grieving man attempts to allay his pain in an unexpected way. A group of about 4 PCs of 6th level are meant to be run through this short adventure. Adventure 2, The Churobagra, is a 4 page adventure about a legendary tunnel-stalker who is making trouble for the local bath house. This short jaunt is written for about 4 PCs of 8th level. The 3rd, and final, adventure, The Tale of Dusk, is about an entertaining bard and her entrancing tale. The bard is happy to tell her tale to about 4 PCs of 11th level in this adventure.

Pages 36-37 contain the open gaming license legal notice. Pages 38 through 64 contain the dungeon tiles that will be needed to construct the maps for the encounters in the 3 adventures included in the product.

Introduction

Nywhere is a charming little large town of 20,000 people. It’s a big enough locale that an entire 128 page source-book could be written to describe it in vast detail. The author resists that temptation and brings us 16 pages of information on the most interesting parts of the city, leaving lots of room for the GM to inject their own setting flavor.

Law and Order
This section describes the ruler of Nywhere (the ever-absent Lord Mayor) and his ruling counsel (called the Quarto because there are 4 of them – the author makes a joke about this name at his own expense later in the product). Also described is the town guard, including their size, equipment, and statistics. The chief of the town guard is a no nonsense half-orc named Brunhilde Krush.

The descriptions of the chief of guards and the lord mayor are entertaining and useful, and not too long. It is in this section that you see a bit of the author’s sense of humor show in the writing. Two examples: “Brunhilde herself is tough but fair. But above all, tough.” (page 5) and “The position he occupies… …is defined by a thicket of ancient laws and documents, some of which overlap, some of which outright contradict each other. But apparently nowhere among the requirements for being Lord Mayor is any stipulation that one spend the majority of one’s time administering the city.” (page 6)

Technology and Culture
It is in this section that we learn about 4 areas where the town excels in technological advancements. Nywhere residents often wear only the latest fashions and may look upon outsiders as bumpkins or ignorant tourists. Sadly, nothing more is said of the fashion district in town. This section also introduces the wheel-lock firearm which is all the rage around town and is a distinct advancement over swords and axes. Thirdly, much of the city is lit with gas lights rather than torches or spells. The thought of the gaslamps lighting the streets of Nywhere lends a steampunk sheen to the town without going overboard. Finally, the town has a high population of medically trained surgeons. Don’t let that sentence fool you – it sounds a lot more modern than it actually is. The Society of Surgery sets up a professional pseudo-guild that could be extremely helpful or tormentingly nefarious. More detail is given on all of these in later sections.

These bits of technology bring the Town of Nywhere straight out of the iron age, flying past the renaissance, and into a position where it could almost eke out an existence during the Enlightenment or on the edge of the Victorian age. The supplement is written in such a way that a GM can accentuate or downplay any of these elements with ease, landing Nywhere in the correct age for your campaign.

Town Hall
This short section provides the barest of information about the main government building in town. It is basically a list of offices located in the building. Were it not for one crucial sentence, I would ask why this section was even included, especially since there is no map of the town included (yes, you heard that right, more on that later). Here is the crucial info: “Hall of Records (open to the public; an indispensable resource for researching the history of Nywhere; many adventurers come here looking for diagrams of the sewer system and tunnels below, but they tend to leave disappointed as such records are contradictory and fragmented at best)” (page 8) This is an excellent way to make this building a possibly important location for the party to visit.

The Market Square
This is a short section that describes the central market in town, wherein merchants who cannot afford a permanent building or who are just passing through can sell their wares. It also mentions the occasional night market, which turns into a festival complete with gaudy costumes and masks, sort of like Mardi Gras.

Wine, Women & Men, and Song

This section details 6 local businesses that deal in the pleasures of the flesh. Some of it is bawdy, but it is written in a way that allows it to be only as bawdy as you want it to be – I think it is something about the way the author writes.. it invites you to take it as extremely bawdy or off-hand slightly colorful, whichever your whim chooses.

The Rack of Antlers Lodge
This single establishment gets the largest focused write up of the town, which makes sense given that it is the focus of one of the included adventures. The reader gets a full description of this large tavern, a menu complete with prices, descriptions of NPCs found therein, and rules for the popular Axe Throwing Contests that are held there. I’ll point out that the author gives equal opportunity for women and men to be objects of lust in this establishment: “No taproom would be complete without a serving staff that’s easy on the eyes. To which end, Regno retains five bosomy young women of the town as well as five thewsome, broad-smiled young swains to wait tables. None of these young folk are amenable to pinches on the bottom or uncouth advances from beery patrons. But a sufficiently good-looking adventurer staying in one of the private rooms at the Rack might not fear loneliness after hours, if he or she were reasonably polite about it.” (page 9) Once again, the sense of humor of the author pokes through, making this an enjoyable and easy to read product.

The Tongue & Groove
This is another tavern/inn located in Nywhere, but it gets a much shorter write-up. The services offered here are similar to those found at The Rack, but the overnight rooms in this place are rented only to women. It has a history of being a safe-house for all-female adventuring parties and a place where new parties are formed.

The Bear’s Den
This is a tavern with no attached inn and no overnight accommodations. The description here is short as well, but one gets the distinct impression that it is an establishment for men who want the largest steak, the coldest beer, and the company of other men. Gives the name of the place new meaning, doesn’t it? As I said, this author is giving equal opportunity for both sexes to be objectified, but he does it in an inoffensive and charming way. It is understated, not overstated, and can easily be overlooked or ignored if one so chooses.

The Dewy Tulip
This is the town’s high class house of ill repute. he proprietor is a member of the town counsel (the Quarto) and is a fantastic businesswoman who knows how to entertain and be entertained.

The Portable Hole
This is the town’s less reputable house of ill repute, if that makes sense. Those who cannot afford the fees at the Dewy Tulip, or who cannot follow the rules there, can visit the portable hole. In a bit of faction forming, we learn here that the proprietor of the Dewy Tulip has been lobbying the town to close down the Portable Hole for quite some time. Is the owner of the Dewy Tulip using her power to shut down the competition? Or is the Portable Hole a bastion of crime and grime that needs to be run out of town? The GM and players get to decide.

Suds’ Sea Bottom Bath House
This is the local hot bathhouse that is run by two halflings, referred to as Ma and Pa Suds. The heat comes from coal driven boilers below the bath house that are tended to by a group of dwarves. A bit of history is given in this section, and it comes in handy if you run your party through the second adventure in the book.

Noble Houses of Worship
This section outlines 3 important churches/religious groups in town. These sections are relatively short, so I won’t break them out with their own header. We learn that there is a convent and school (Convent of Our Lady of Scornful Regard & School for Girls) that is interested in teaching the tenet of the religion with a paddle and a cleaver. A second church in town (The Temple of Climaxia) hosts a festival of debauchery once a month on the full moon. And a shadowy, unpopular place (The Church of Polypod) has doors decorated with “carvings of weird, uneuclidean geometry, intertwined with relief-carvings of the oozing appendages of the Church’s horrid Tentacle Gods.” (page 13) Shiver. We later find that there is a suspected connection between the Gasmen’s Guild and the Church of Polypod, lending a Cthulhu-esque feel to the town if the GM chooses to exploit that connection.

Centers of New Technology in Nywhere
This section describes the Gasmen’s Guild and their guild hall. It is here that we learn certain details about the secrecy of the guild and where the gas is obtained (maybe). We also learn more about the Society of Surgery including what it takes to be a member, what one actually learns, and where the practice cadavers some from. The Adventurer’s Bank is described, along with it’s proprietor, Lady Lucre, and the history of the bank’s founding. We also learn in this section that there is a rival loaning group, run by the mysterious Drow group (called the Circlet) who live in the underside, that give the bank problems. More details are given on the Drow group later. The final center of new technology discussed in this section is Blastington Arms, the makers of fine Wheel Lock Pistols and other firearms. Quite a bit of information is given on the craftsman responsible for the firearms.

Established Businesses
Several paragraphs are given to describing the The Herb’n’Gerbil Magical Component Emporium, which is run by an old academic wizard with a history. Here is a good opportunity for the PCs to have a sage/advisor NPC in town. This is not a typical magic items store, and though it does have some quirky charm, I think it exists as a way to have the Archmage Alkemic the Great come into the picture if needed. Blades’n’Things is an established arms and armor shop run by a pair of half elves. They have more standard weapon fare available than Blastington Arms.

Under Nywhere
This section describes the two powers that hold sway in the Underside, the Circlet (I mentioned earlier) and the Dead Traders. The Dead Traders not only trade in the dead, but they are themselves dead. I will say nothing more than that, bit it is definitely an interesting twist to the economy under Nywhere, and topside.

Short Adventures in Nywhere

These three adventures are written in a style similar to the 3 encounter delves found in the 4e D&D product Dungeon Delves. The first adventure gets a small introduction so that the GM understands what is happening and can answer player questions during the session. I don’t want to give spoilers for the adventures, but I will say a bit about each one.

Adventure 1: Stitched
This adventure does a good job of introducing the players to a member of the Society of Surgery. The man’s solution to his personal grief is a flawed one, but is interesting in that it can have implications for several groups in town. The implications depend upon how the players find information, how they interpret that information, and how much the GM tells them about the situation during the session. That’s not to say that the GM must simply tell them things, but the style of the group and how they approach the problem will lend itself to varying degrees of information-giving. This could be a quick jaunt into town and below with little consequence, or it could cause problems for several NPCs in town, including the Bank, the Society of Surgery, and anyone who has dealt with the Circlet.

Adventure 2: The Churobagra
If you say it fast, it might come out as Chupacabra – I’m not sure that was the intent of the name, but the unseen, bloodsucking horror beast description seems to bolster my impression. This adventure does an interesting thing with the encounters and events – there are 4 distinct events that occur when the PCs investigate, and the adventure randomizes them, making it more interesting and less linear feeling, though since all 4 events still occur, all relevant information gets relayed. The events create an atmosphere that should leave the PCs thinking “What the hell? What’s next?” – which is a good thing if run the way I think it was intended.

Unfortunately, this adventure also does something I don’t like – it includes a needless skill check. During a certain encounter, the PCs must make a DC 2 perception check. DC 2. Yes, DC 2. Keep in mind this adventure is for 8th level PCs. Why ask them to make a DC 2 perception check? I think the idea was to introduce a wily and fun aspect – if someone fails this by rolling a 1 and not having a Perception check mod, they will be dumbfounded and surprised when the next thing happens… which sounds okay, except… 8th level PCs, a DC 2 – why? This I would leave out if I was running it.

Adventure 3: The Tale of Dusk
This is the only adventure of the 3 that has the PCs spending the majority of their time topside. The other two have a large portion of the action occurring underground despite the important NPC interactions happening topside, most of the battles are below. In this adventure we find that the townsfolk are finding their relationships affected by a traveling bard who has the most engaging tale to tell. She performs nightly at the Rack of Antlers. But its not what you think, it is the women who are enthralled by the beautiful bard. The party will, hopefully, investigate and learn a lot about the townsfolk, the proprietor of The Rack, and about the trouble a brad will go through to become famous. Played the right way, this can be an engaging and interesting little adventure.

Unfortunately I noticed a small problem with the final encounter. In the final encounter with the Big Bad Evil Guy, the Bard (a 6th level NPC) has to make a strength check to destroy an item. The product says that to smash the item it takes 3 sequential Strength checks with a DC of 30. Since a STR check in Pathfinder is simply d20+attribute modifier, and the NPC has a STR of 12, it is impossible for the NPC to roll a 30. The text says that if the PCs assist the NPC, the BBEG will attack them, and they are kind of in the middle of a battle anyway. But even if 4 PCs assisted and gave +2 for each, and the NPC rolled a 20, that is only a 29… 20 for roll + 1 for STR mod + 8 for the 4 assists. This DC makes the action impossible. The adventure specifically states that the only action the NPC will take is to try and destroy the item and when it is destroyed, it weakens the BBEG and helps the party defeat the BBEG.

So… if the NPC isn’t really meant to, or able to, destroy it, why even put that in there? Why not just have the NPC flee with the rest of the people in that location (The author makes a point of describing how the rest of the people flee and how it may hinder the party’s actions). This could be a typo, but I recommend that anyone who may run the adventures verify that the DCs are in line with what the party and/or NPCs can do. It is extremely frustrating for a D to be so high as to be unattainable – I accidentally did that once and the player rolled a 20 and still didn’t succeed – I felt like a Dick GM, don’t let that happen to you!

Map Tiles

The remaining pages of the product are given over to printable tiles that can be used to construct the encounter maps for the adventures. They include several cavern tiles, a few rooms of a manor, and a huge tavern. These are formatted such that you can simply print them on card stock and cut them out, no need to re-scale to make sure they match the 1 inch bases of your miniatures. The cavern tiles are very dark, so I think a color printer is needed, not just preferred.

The Good and The Bad

 A nice town that can be dropped into just about any setting
 Interesting NPCs that can be developed into true allies and adversaries for a party remaining in town or close to it
 Good enough descriptions that the town comes alove as you read it, but short enough and open enough that I could take a singel establishment or NPC from this setting and place them in my own game without problems
 Easy to read, engaging writing style that is humorous but not too cheesy
 3 Adventures that could really add flavor to a campaign and offer interesting outcomes – they could probably be played in one session each, so if you are looking for a few one-shot adventures, this is worth a look
 Map tiles are included in this product, making it an all-in-one product – I believe there is only one creature mentioned where the author has to point you to the Pathfinder Bestiary for stats, everything else is in this product, nothing else required (except the core book, of course)
 The Gasmen’s Guild, the Society of Surgery, and the Wheel Lock Firearms allow you to introduce new technologies into your setting, while having enough constraints on them that they don’t overpower the current majority tech found in your game.

 No town map, and though the author states that was by design so that the GM could slip this in anywhere, I am a lover of maps and new interesting town maps are always a welcome addition, and when they are absent they are missed
 Some issues with the DCs for skill checks, so you will want to make sure to adjust those to fit the party before running this blind
 A few typos and grammatical flubs, but nothing to egregious – a few over-usages of specific words (e.g. the word ‘primarily’ used 3 times in the same sentence on page 5) and some odd sentence structure in a couple of places. I’ll say that I have seen worse in published products from larger companies (I’m looking at you, WotC). One thing that did niggle at me though, was the authors use of see above or see below instead of see page [insert page #]. Why not just highlight those phrases and then go back after final layout and change the number to reflect the correct page? Of course, even major publishers mess that up (and insert see page xx instead of a #) so as far as complaints go, it isn’t that big of a deal.

Verdict

Overall I had a fun time reading the product. The town and its major NPCs and technologies have been described in enough detail to help me add them to my campaign. At the same time there is a large portion of the town that has not been described at all, leaving me to fill it in as I wish. This could be a boon or a bane depending on what sort of GM you are and how much prep you like to do.

There is enough mystery written into the product that adventure hooks jumped out at me as I was reading it and the 3 short adventures are just the start of what you could do in Nywhere. Also, much of the information is system neutral, so you could port it over to your preferred system, if that system doesn’t happen to be Pathfinder.

Hope you enjoyed this review. Until next time, I wish you good gaming.
~DMSamuel

About

DM Samuel is the owner of RPG Musings as well as the podcast editor for The Tome Show, where he also hosts the Edition Wars Podcast. He plays all manner of role-playing games and boardgames and continues to learn new games all the time (and new things about old games, too). He lives in Upstate New York with his wife and their game collection. You can follow him on twitter @DMSamuel or support RPGMusings by subscription at Patreon.com/RPGMusings or by direct payment to paypal.me/DMSamuel