Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review & Commentary on Kos City (Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting) From Skirmisher Publishing For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Grab it Right Over 

Swords of Kos - Fantasy Campaign Setting - Kos City is the main title in a shared world by Skirmisher Publications. The book has a throw back sword and sorcery  flavor to it. Thi
Its basically their go to fantasy campaign setting with a Greek/Minoan spin on it. The pdf weighs in at about eighty pages and its well written. The book describes about 50 locations in a system neutral bent with a leaning towards the old school flavor that we've been seeing for the last couple of years. Personally I wouldn't use it with a Pathfinder game but friends of mine whom I showed it too said that they would. Your mileage may vary as well your choice in games or editions. 
The Drivethrurpg blurb: 

Welcome to the world of Kos and to Kos City, the first volume of the highly-anticipated Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting!
This book contains descriptions of 50 different specific places that can be used either individually or in conjunction with one another, and within the context of the city of Kos as presented here or as part of any other community a storyteller might have established within their own campaign setting. It also includes a fully-keyed map of the city of Kos, both in the book and as a separate 11 x 17 file that can be printed out on a single sheet of paper.
The Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting has deliberately been designed to be system free, not tied to any particular game setting, and to be compatible with any set of role-playing game rules suitable for ancient, medieval, or fantasy venues. In that the setting was used as the playtest backdrop for games using the OGL/d20, Pathfinder, “Basic” Dungeons & Dragons and Labyrinth Lord retroclone, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, of course, it is an especially ideal setting for them.
There has been a boat load of work that went into this book and it seems to be a labor of love. Some might even say Herculean in scope. Many of the locations link up with the Kos Necropolis books by Micheal Varholus. This is really where the shared universe bit comes in and its not a bad little hook for the DM to get some fast background. 
The book is very well written, its concise, has a ton of adventure hooks, NPC's and a complete city too boot but is it really 'plug and play' friendly in the tradition sense of the word?  Let's really find out!

Using Kos City For Your Old School Sword and Sorcery Campaigns

If we take a look at a game like Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea with it's Green Death plague sewn into the background and its pseudo Greek cultures as well. This book's locations can easily be dropped into the background of the game campaign. There are ton of opportunities that suddenly open up with the campaign city and its environs. 
With the recent firth of Hercules movies hitting the pop culture landscape this book might not be a bad choice to use as a campaign jump off point if the PC's are not ready for the bright lights of the main campaign cities of Hyperborea.  There is a lot here to use and with a bit of work and luck the DM could have almost an entire campaign in the isles surrounding the Kos locations in a quiet corner of Hyperborea. That's where the strength of the setting comes into play. The flavor of Kos literally crawls off the pages and demands to be added into a sword and sorcery campaign. The thing about Kos is that to my mind there is more pulp and less slick fantasy artwork that puts it square in the old school tradition in my book.
Because of the way that the Kos Pdf is set up its quite easy to print the section that you need to plug the city into the background of your PC's. The fantasy races lurking in Kos's background can easily be transformed into their AS&SH equivalents. 
The set up of the book which gives location then adventure hook works to pull in the PC's world of Kos when they may not quite be ready for the heady bright lights of certain sections of Hyperborea.
   Kos is a smaller pond for adventurers to swim in but make no mistake this isn't a nice little place. The NPC's, locations, businesses, etc. are all done in the pulp tradition of Howard in some respects. Tread very carefully where you will. 
All in all a real game of play is truly needed to know if Kos City works as a complete campaign or even a convention set adventure game. This review and commentary is only a 'thought exercise' in reality. Play is very different. 

The Bottom Line 
Is Kos City worth your money? Yes! The production values and locations are cool, well done, interesting, and engaging. The pseudo Minoan spin is different, solid, well done and very dangerous in its own ways. Its something I'll get into in another commentary on the Kos campaign setting.   

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