Parsantium: City at the Crossroads & Icons of Parsantium
Disclaimer: these pdfs were graciously given to Iconic by Richard Green for review. All opinions within the review are our own.
Although Iconic is on hiatus, we still love looking at 13th Age products. Richard Green contacted us about reviewing his products, and we jumped at the chance to check out the Parsantium books: Parsantium: City at the Crossroads and Icons of Parsantium.
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads is a setting created with Pathfinder stats in mind, but ended up being mostly system neutral. But whereas many other authors expand and explore an entire world or region when creating a new setting, Richard takes an in-depth look at one large, Byzantium-esque city.
The book itself is 178 pages of double-columned text with a spattering of images that do a decent job of invoking the setting and spurring the imagination. It’s laid out into six main sections: City at the Crossroads, Life in the City, Running a Campaign, Gazetteer, Organizations, and Religions.
City at the Crossroads
This introductory section gives a high-level overview of what the city of Parsantium is about. It explains the history of the city, including a well-rounded timeline of events, introduces the thirteen races that are present in the city, and provides a number of possible player backgrounds. Each of the races and backgrounds are explored just enough to lay a good foundation for GMs and players to craft a memorable story at the table. Personally, I liked the inclusion of gnolls as a we’re-not-evil-just-misunderstood race and the fun-loving, mischievous race of simian humanoids, the Vanara.
The backgrounds each have a stat bonus which is designed for the Pathfinder RPG, but it would be easy enough to adapt this mechanic to most other d20-based systems.
Life in the City
This section provides the overarching framework upon which the rest of the city is built. Here you also find out about the ruling and political systems, laws and punishments, customs, superstitions, trade and currency, entertainment, festivals, etc. Most of what is introduced in this section is flushed out more thoroughly in the Gazetteer section, but I can see this chapter being a useful tool to provide to players to help them be immersed into the setting.
Running a Campaign
If I had to decide which section sold me on this product, this would probably be it. One of the key concepts covered in this chapter is that Parsantium is a living, breathing city that will continue to function with or without any PC involvement. Once that idea took root in my mind, the rest of the book really came to life for me. This chapter also suggests a number of campaign themes you could use, the locations in Parsantium to which PCs are likely to frequent, and the main features of the city. The descriptions and themes explored here are very evocative and give just enough information for one’s imagination to springboard off of.
At 70 pages, this one section definitely carries the bulk of the product, and is a prime example of the incredible thought Richard put into this setting. He takes us through each of the three Quarters in the city (and the immediate area outside the city) and provides an in-depth look at each of the eleven Wards within those Quarters. Each Ward is almost a smaller city within Parsantium as each has its own unique aspects and interests. Adventure hooks abound in each of these Quarters and Wards as there’s usually two or three people passing by that could use some help. The concept of Parsantium being a living location is really felt in the details and descriptions of this section.
There are a myriad of forces and powers (some hidden and others not) that vie and fight for control of Parsantium, while other groups are content to simply help better each other’s lives. Each of these groups and organizations are dissected in this section, and you are left with a good understanding of how they all interact and many adventure hooks to engage the PCs. A couple of organizations that stood out to me in particular were the Brotherhood of Spite (a group of toy-making gnomes and goblins who secretly compete with each other on how creatively and covertly they can kill or maim with their toys and pranks) and the Raksashas (a group of raksashas who have infiltrated positions of leadership within the city awaiting the return of their master). It’s doubtful a group of PCs will encounter all of the organizations listed here, but if you were to ever sense attention waning, you have plenty of exciting options to choose from here.
What setting would be complete without taking a look at the major religions and beliefs of its denizens? More than thirty gods of the different cultures and races are revealed in this section. Included are things like alignment, iconography, temple location, high priests, and the like. The segment for each god follows the pattern of the rest of the book in that it gives enough information to latch on to but isn’t all-inclusive, allowing each GM to tweak the setting to best fit their table. One religion/god in particular amuses me in that the followers (mostly aristocratic women who find this the current fad) think they’re worshipping one god but are unknowingly following a different, bloodthirsty god instead. This information is only revealed to those in the highest circles of that religion.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Included with your purchase is a full-color map (which clearly depicts the different Wards). This map can also be found within the book, spread across two pages, but having it as a separate image is a handy tool.
If you have been looking for a more civilized area for your gaming table to explore, or if you want a high-fantasy version of Byzantium or Rome, we highly recommend checking this book out. You won’t want for ideas and hooks, and the next story arc will always be just around the corner. This product is well worth the cover price of $19.99, and you can get it from a number of online vendors and have the options of getting the PDF and/or a softcover print version.
Icons of Parsantium
Icons of Parsantium is a 45-page PDF available from Drivethrurpg or Paizo for $3.99. While not exactly a standalone product, as it is designed to adapt Parsantium: City at the Crossroads to 13th Age, there is a lot of material in here that is worth it for any 13th Age GM or anyone running a Parsantium campaign.
The book opens with an introduction by Rob Heinsoo, which lends a lot of 13th Age gaming cred to this supplement. From there, Richard jumps right into an overview of the 15 icons of Parsantium, as well as giving you a bit of advice on how to tweak them to suit the needs of your campaign.
The main part of the book is, as you would expect, the icons. You can expect the same type of information you are used to from the 13th Age core book as they are laid out similarly. I feel Parsantium’s icons are tied more strongly into the setting material, which makes sense as this covers one city, while 13th Age covers the whole of the Dragon Empire.
You also get a series of suggestions for relationship rolls by icon. They can serve as inspiration, theming, or even just get a GM out of a jam for the session. The suggestions laid out here are helpful even when resolving any Icon Relationship Roll.
The book finishes up with a glossary and some secrets just for the GM about the icons. This allows you to print out the icon sheets for your players and not worry about spoiling anything story-wise for them.
Icons of Parsantium is a must-have if you plan to run a 13th Age game in the rich environment of the City at the Crossroads. But it is also very useful for non-Parsantium GMs. Just having access to 15 additional, fleshed out Icons makes this product worth the price. Switch out the standard 13 or mix and match to create a flavor unique to your campaign.
Also, as noted earlier, suggestions on relationship dice are broadly applicable and serve as a great format for GMs to create their own cheat sheets.
In summation, Iconic loved these products. If you are looking for a city to drop into your campaign, just icons, or a complete setting to sell your group on, check out the Parsantium products.
You can get a taste for what’s covered in the books by visiting parsantium.com, which is also where you can find links for purchasing the books.
Thanks very much for the review! 😃
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Quick Question? The gnolls in this setting seem to be based inthe huns/mongols of history. Are the other fantasy races based on different cultures as well?
The main cultures in the setting are loosely based on Byzantium (Bathuran), Arabia (Aqhrani), India (Sampuran), Scandinavia/Russia (Urskovian) and China (Tiangaon). On the whole I tried to fit the non-human races into these cultures, rather than coming up with historical analogues for them. The centaurs are an exception as, like the gnolls, they are steppe nomads.