Castle Zagyg
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Post Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 6:10 pm 
 

Time for a review of another great product from Troll Lord Games.

 I have no idea why the Ebay gods were so foolish as to let me acquire The Lost City of Gaxmoor for a song.  The fools!  This is easily the best D20 publication I have ever encountered.

  For those who are interested, The Lost City of Gaxmoor regularly sells for $20.95, but it is currently on sale at the Troll Lord Games website for $7.50.  See this link:

http://www.trolllord.com/newsite/erde/4001.html

  My review rates various categories 1-5, with 5 being the highest:

PHYSICAL PRESENCE: 5   
    The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a perfect bound book of 136 pages.  The binding is tight and there are none of the crackles one hears from a book that is destined to burst open the first time you use it.  The front and back covers are four-color gloss.  There is a large, single-sided map attached inside the back cover.  This map's edge is perforated and it can be detached from the book.  The layout is very professional, with monster and encounter information set aside from the regular text in grayscale boxes.  It is printed in a readable 10-point Times Roman font.

ARTWORK: 4
    The cover art, of player characters and soldiers battling humanoids, is by Jason Walton.  While this piece will not win any art show awards, it nicely conveys the old-school feel of the book's subject matter.  The interior artists include Jim Branch, Bryan Swartz, Dave Zenz and Chad Sergesketter.  Their work includes a nice mixture of styles that, again, gives the product the feel of an old school publication.  There are a few instances of pickup art or generic graphics, but most of it is really good...and there is a lot of it.  The artists all managed to do a good job visually guiding the game master through the lost city.

CONTENT: 5
   The Lost City of Gaxmoor is crammed with adventure.  There are encounters everywhere, including interesting situations and miniature quests within the overall story.  There is also a section of new monsters and there are adventures to be had on the way to Gaxmoor and in the surrounding countryside.
    This publication is credited to three writers, including Ernie Gygax and Luke Gygax "with David Moore."  One assumes that David Moore was the cleanup and finishing writer for the members of gaming's first family.
    The basic premise of The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a ruined city of the "Aenochian Empire," now inhabited by humanoids of all descriptions.  The Aenochians closely resemble Earth's own Roman Empire, which means that the module is not too intimately tied to Troll Lord Games' Erde world setting.  It could be plunked down quite convincingly in any game world where the ruins of a former empire dot the countryside...which means virtually every campaign world.  
    There are too many great situations in The Lost City of Gaxmoor to describe here.  Suffice to say that there are evenings upon evenings of things for an adventuring party to do, and the city of renegades is full of fun situations and locales.  The authors have utilized the great variety and flexibility of the Third Edition AD&D rules.  The players will never know what to expect.
    The Lost City of Gaxmoor is more than just an encounter area.  It is also a really good rendering of a Roman city, and it would make a good game product even if no monsters were present.
    One note of caution here:  The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a more sophisticated setting than just a bash-in-the-door module.  Inexperienced players, or parties of poor role-players, may die a lot in this adventure.

MAPS:  5
    Readers of my other reviews will remember that I have been extremely critical of the maps in other Troll Lords Games publications.  The Lost City of Gaxmoor is jammed with maps.  Jammed!
    The king of these maps is the detachable large-scale map inside the back cover.  This is a 21" x 23" artistic rendering of the ruined city.  The background is a glowing tan...like parchment.  The city's main buildings are drawn in 3-D in black ink.  The only drawback of this map is that it has the encounter sites numbered.  These numbers should have been placed only on the smaller, duplicate map inside of the book.
    Many buildings inside the city are mapped...some of them in 3-D.  Despite their 3-D rendering, the maps are generally simple enough that a game master could re-draw them for the players without too much   trouble.  There are 25 different pages with interior maps, including a plan of the city sewers.  The only things missing are maps of the city theatre and colosseum, both of which are very interesting encounter areas described in the text...possibly because they are too large for rendering in the 1/4"=5' squares that are fairly standard for Third Edition AD&D maps.

PRICE:  3 or 5
    If you buy The Lost City of Gaxmoor for $20.95, you will have a solid piece of gaming, well worth your money.  
    If you buy The Lost City of Gaxmoor for the $7.50 sale price on Troll Lord Games' website, you will have stolen the best game value I have seen since Judges Guild's Verbosh setting...and there is more to hack and slay here than Verboshians could ever imagine.
    One word of caution here:  The Troll Lord Games website lists The Lost City of Gaxmoor at 80 pages and "saddle stitched."  It is possible that the most recent edition of the publication has been cut down for increased profit.  You should ask before ordering...but you'll still probably be a winner even if the online sale version is somewhat scaled down.

INTANGIBLES AND OTHER BULLHEADED OPINIONS: 4
    At present, D20 (or OGL, 3.0 or 3.5) publications are not highly collectible.  There is a lag in their collectibility based on the glut of D20 products that soaked the RPG market.  If you buy this publication, it will mostly likely be because you are an active gamer who wants to purchase a highly useable adventure setting.  The collectibility will come later, when people are scrambling to collect the entire Troll Lord Games RPG line.
    The pair of Gygax family names on this publication tend to increase its interest.  The Lost City of Gaxmoor fits nicely into the collection of anyone interested in the Gygax contribution to gaming.
    The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a nice demonstration of the great power of the 3.0/3.5 version of AD&D.  This iteration of the game requires more work and overall competency by the game master, but it also provides more varied situations and a strong element of surprise in every encounter.  The players can never relax, as combat is deadly and the monsters have learned a number of player character tricks, such as levels and special abilities.  Kobolds actually can eat your baby...and get away with it.
    If nothing else, The Lost City of Gaxmoor is a highly entertaining read.  It is a treasure house of good ideas.  You ought to get ahold of some version of it now, while you can.
 
   

COMBINED SCORE: 26 or 28  It is Dark Tower levels of good!


1-5 Demand your money back. (Ironhoof Highlands)
6-10 Sucks...a lot, but someone might want it. (Mayfair City State)
11-15 Fixable.  Useful to gamers with certain interests. (Dragonlance)
16-20 Interesting to a general audience. (Arduin Grimoire)
21-25 Worth picking up and potentially great. (D1-3, Verbosh)
26-29 Really good stuff. Very valuable. (G1-3, Dark Tower)
30 Buy it now while you still can. (?)


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Post Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 6:29 pm 
 

good review mark - cool stuff. if it wasnt 3E/d20 i would go and get one myself.

Al



  

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Post Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 7:20 pm 
 

Apparently, you are the only one reading, Al.  Thanks   :D


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Post Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 7:54 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:Apparently, you are the only one reading, Al.  Thanks   :D


my pleasure! i quite like reading reviews, even if its for a system i dont like - its still good to know what something is...but hey maybe thats just me!

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Post Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:53 pm 
 

Great review Mark (particularly like your 1-30 rating scale - you really like Dark Tower don't you!?)

However, what I would really like is the TIME that you and Al seem to have an endless supply of - From previous postings I know that both you guys actually do have a life (far fuller than mine :roll: ) but 6000+ posts between you on this forum alone!!! :D


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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:17 am 
 

well if i am not in work, i am training. if i am not training, i am relaxing, so what better time to sit and take in a bit of tv and post some msgs :)

perfectamundo! :D

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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:46 am 
 

gyg wrote:Great review Mark (particularly like your 1-30 rating scale - you really like Dark Tower don't you!?)

However, what I would really like is the TIME that you and Al seem to have an endless supply of - From previous postings I know that both you guys actually do have a life (far fuller than mine :roll: ) but 6000+ posts between you on this forum alone!!! :D


It's summer break at the moment.  I just reply to stuff.  It adds up.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 8:47 am 
 

Hi Mark,

I did read your review and was thinking that overall, postings like that are quite useful to the gaming community. There are probably far more lurkers on these forums than there are members. Most are probably here to get price estimates for eBay listings but some of them must be gamers looking for stories and recommendations. A review with a detailed analysis such as yours would be useful to somebody sitting on the fence and thinking about buying it.

Being a new member myself I am reluctant to jump into the middle of things but your comment "Apparently, you are the only one reading, Al. Thanks" made me wonder if there is not a place in these forums for a section similar to the classifieds section. Where you could post reviews with their own title so that users could quickly scan down the list to see if an item they are looking for has been reviewed by one of the regular members here.

Just a thought but it could become a useful tool plus if it worked like the classifieds section the poster could see how many views there had been. :-)

That's my 2 cents worth for today!

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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:05 am 
 

Jason, dragonsfoot.org has a nice section for Reviews...
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=38

Mark, great review...if you would like more readers, you should post your review on DF as well. There was actually a request for a review of Gaxmoor earlier this year, which was never properly filled:
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewt ... oor#290337

Here's another thread with some info on placing Gaxmoor in Greyhawk:
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewt ... moor#54374

G. Gygax also wrote a Gaxmoor intro adventure which is in the Codex of Erde:
http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewt ... oor#305930
http://www.trolllord.com/newsite/erde/1010.html

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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:37 am 
 

In addition, Scott Gregg (noted GH guy) posted some notes about the original Greyhawk-based background for the Lost City of Gaxmoor.  I'll see if I can get him to repost it, and will link back once he's done so.


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Post Posted: Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:14 pm 
 

gyg wrote:Great review Mark (particularly like your 1-30 rating scale -you really like Dark Tower don't you!?)



Yes, but notice that the G series modules are also listed in that category.

Dark Tower has its flaws and the G series modules (Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and Hall of the Fire Giant King) are not so much works of beauty as places with lots of good things to kill.

G1-3 offer tons of fun...just about everyone has a story about something their characters did there.  Dark Tower looms large for me because it was a legendary place of peril for us back in the old days.

(Hall of the Fire Giant King is also a nice re-telling of an incident from one of the Compleate Enchanter stories...which clearly had an influence on the development of D&D.)

A rating on that scale should mean a product with the potential to be a classic...a module where everyone has their own story to tell.  Although the rating reflects mostly gaming value, it is true that collectibility, or future collectibility, is also a part of the score.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:54 pm 
 

An interesting note....

   A check of the Troll Lord Games Website reveals that the Castle Zagyg project has been cut back from seven planned volumes to only three.

  In addition to the three Zagyg books there will be another (entirely disposable junk book) on classes and feats and the already-published Dark Chateau.

   This probably reflects the fact that Rob Kuntz has left the project and that seven books was simply too large of a series.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 4:15 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:An interesting note....

   A check of the Troll Lord Games Website reveals that the Castle Zagyg project has been cut back from seven planned volumes to only three.

  In addition to the three Zagyg books there will be another on classes and feats and the already-published Dark Chateau.

   This probably reflects the fact that Rob Kuntz has left the project and that seven books was simply too large of a series.

Mark   8)


Yep, they may even be doing box sets for Castle Zagyg due to all the maps.

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Post Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:21 pm 
 

I regard it as good news, since the project as planned was simply too large and too unlikely to be completed....and highly unlikely to be bought by anyone at the total asking price of just under $1 million for all seven installments.  (Although, as an installment project, the individual money hits would not be as painful.)

I like the idea of a box with lots of maps (since maps are what I want).  The problem with this is that any publisher who goes to a boxed edition these days also goes to a $70+ price tag.

Like Monte Cook's $100+ Ptolus project, the price inevitably makes it more of an artistic statement....a collector's item rather than a useable and popular game publication...much like The World's Largest Dungeon.....or some sort of game industry version of a Heritage Mint product.

It was a similar price that doomed Necromancer's remix of Wilderlands of High Fantasy.  

The installments following Yggsburgh's $40 price tag were supposed to come with a $20 price tag.  It seems unlikely that a box with lots of maps will come to us with anything under a $40 punch in the nose...and likely twice that....which means guys like me cannot afford it.

Of course, given the choice between having to scrounge for a used or low-end copy of Castle Zagyg would be better than never seeing it at all.  But, if I'm going to pay a premium price, what I'd rather have is just copies of Gary Gygax's notes and maps, with commentary and personal anecdotes appended to them.

I wonder if these forums ever make their way to people at Troll Lord Games?

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:43 pm 
 

grodog wrote:I concur Xaxaxe:  at GenCon 2004 I offered to edit the Castle Zagyg stuff for *free* in order to insure that the products were as good as possible.  All I heard back afterward was crickets.

That said, at $10 for CZ:Y I'm willing to put up with crappy editing in order to get the goods :D


They paid someone to edit CZ:Y. Truth be told, I don't know how much of the poor editing of CZ:Y is his fault, though, because in places the text looks like it was taken from a draft rather than an edited version. So errors could have been introduced in the layout.

Another amusing TLG anecdote. Some months before Living the Lejend was released, I pointed out to them (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that the preview cover read "Living the Legend". They thanked me for pointing it out -- but it never got corrected, and the module was published with "Living the Legend" on the cover and "Living the Lejend" on the title page.

And yes, the dungeon maps in CZ:Y are a disaster. I thought the town map was fine, though -- the areas are color-coded so that one can see to which social class each area belongs. And detailed maps will be forthcoming when the Yggsburgh Town modules are released. The editing on these should be quite a bit better -- Jon Creffield is doing it.



  

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Post Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:40 am 
 

I notice a trend toward computer-drawn maps these days.  Just because it was made with computer graphics does not make it better.  In fact, the computer often makes horribly ugly maps...and the snazzy color just makes them hard to photocopy.  I prefer maps drawn by a graphic artist that have some quality to them rather than what Uncle Larry can bang off on his Apple.


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Post Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:33 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:I notice a trend toward computer-drawn maps these days.  Just because it was made with computer graphics does not make it better.  In fact, the computer often makes horribly ugly maps...and the snazzy color just makes them hard to photocopy.  I prefer maps drawn by a graphic artist that have some quality to them rather than what Uncle Larry can bang off on his Apple.


i appreciate a hand drawn map far more.

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Post Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:51 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:I notice a trend toward computer-drawn maps these days.  Just because it was made with computer graphics does not make it better.  In fact, the computer often makes horribly ugly maps...and the snazzy color just makes them hard to photocopy.  I prefer maps drawn by a graphic artist that have some quality to them rather than what Uncle Larry can bang off on his Apple.


Well, some computer-drawn maps are all right. The ones in RJK's Cairn of the Skeleton King were rendered on a computer.

Most publishers would probably rather not pay for a cartographer.



  

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Post Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 5:14 pm 
 

dcas wrote:
Well, some computer-drawn maps are all right. The ones in RJK's Cairn of the Skeleton King were rendered on a computer.

Most publishers would probably rather not pay for a cartographer.


And, of course, there is a reason why a cartographer costs money...although maps are not that hard to draw and even an amateur map is better than a comically robotic map that looks like it was drawn by Kryton, from Red Dwarf.


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Post Posted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:07 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:And, of course, there is a reason why a cartographer costs money...although maps are not that hard to draw and even an amateur map is better than a comically robotic map that looks like it was drawn by Kryton, from Red Dwarf.


I can't let this thread go without another amusing TLG anecdote (your mention of amateur maps made me think of this). They actually published Gygax's own map of Ludnum in The Canting Crew rather than getting it re-drawn by a cartographer or rendering it on a computer.



  
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