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Calimport
TSR/Wizards of the Coast, 96 pages
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms Campaign Expansion module


Art: Fred Fields
Calimport
Module Details
Calimport leads off a series of adventures with tightly focused settings. It is named for the largest -- and perhaps meanest -- city in Faerun. Described briefly in Empires of the Shining Sea, Calimport both expands and supports the plots and adventures within that campaign setting box while also providing a wealth of new information about the city itself.
Author: Steven E. Schend
ISBN: 0-7869-1238-3
Format: 8-3/8" x 10-3/4" booklet
Age Level: 10+
Designed for: Novice through advanced players and Dungeon Masters
Price: $16.95US; $21.95CDN

TSR Catalogue

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

Advertisement
Welcome to the City of Glory (called by some the City of Slaves, but pay no attention to them). Here there are mysteries, here there are enchantments, here there are... what do you mean the food tastes funny? Well, of course, the weather's hot. And if you got lost, well, it was your own fault! If you don't like it here, go back to Waterdeep!

Ahhh... but you don't want to do that, do you? What does Waterdeep have to offer when compared to a city that was glorious when the north was wilderness? Come, friend. Let us explore the wonders that are Calimport.

I've often thought that a city set must be one of the most difficult kinds of campaign expansions to produce. The designer has to balance detail and coverage and book size while avoiding repetition ("Look, it's another tavern!"), and at the same time working the city into the overall campaign setting. The old Waterdeep boxed set from TSR was one example of the maximum approach to the city design. I recall that it covered everything in great detail, with these immense maps that covered a huge seminar table when laid out. Wow! What a great idea! Of course, the maps got in the way constantly and we got bogged down deciding whether there really was an alley there, and well, maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all.

Calimport takes the opposite approach. This is a minimalist approach. The overall history of the sprawling ancient city of Calimport is sketched out, the city structure described, a good number of important sites detailed, and a few key players introduced. Now normally if a game did this, you would see asking "Where are the details? How does this really work? What's going on with that? And wouldn't it be nice if..." Well, not with Calimport (well, okay, maybe a little of the "wouldn't it be nice if..." later on. This supplement works by providing the bones and the hooks to encourage players and DM's to use their imaginations and adventure in a fluid, changing environment. As the book says, not a day passes in Calimport where a building doesn't collapse or a fire doesn't consume a block within some drudach (the smallest unit of Calimport, basically a neighbourhood).

This book is, of course, a supplement to the Empire of the Shining Sea boxed supplement that details the whole of Calimshan in the Forgotten Realms setting. If you intend to use Calimport in that way, buy the boxed set as well. The two work together. If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of added richness, you can use Calimport on its own to place an Arabian flavoured city into any campaign setting.

Calimport is broken into six sections. The first gives the most general impression of the city, discussing structure, atmosphere, and population. The second discusses the history of Calimport (and a bit of Calimshan in general). I found the way that it did this quite ingenious: instead of giving a detail and tedious history lesson, the book provides a timeline that highlights significant and mysterious events over Calimport's nearly ten thousand year history. It provides a strong sense of the depth time in this setting and hints a wonderful legendary story hooks without becoming tedious. Well done!

The third section of the book describes the city itself, working through the various wards of the city and briefly describing the sabbans (districts) contained in each. Notable sites and personalities are highlighted, often with just enough back story to provide character. For describing a city as large as Calimport is alleged to be, this works remarkably well. I do have a gripe here in that I think the maps could have been better produced -- the city map shows wards and their sabban divisions, while the ward maps show only the drudach divisions within the sabbans. It's a little hard to follow. Also, be aware that there is a discrepancy between what look like alleys and structures on the maps and the descriptions of the city as full of tiny dwellings and narrow streets. Again, this is hard to follow and I think it's better to let your imagination guide you.

The fourth section is a detailed description of the personalities and politics of one particular sabban, suitable as the start of a campaign in Calimport; section six likewise contains rumours to use in kicking off adventures. Section five is an intriguing description of magical "artifacts" -- with the exception too, these aren't the mega-magic items you might expect, but they are unique items with histories that add flavour to the game. I like to see this kind of thing in a game supplement.

My favourite part of Calimport, though, has to be the lost undercity, the ruins of the past that have been buried over ten thousand years. This isn't a constructed dungeon, but a wild and woolly collection of sewers, ruins, and tunnels. Some of the Muzad, as the undercity is called, is thousands of years old, other parts less than a decade as streets above are hidden under platforms so that nobles need not walk on the lowly ground. The Muzad is the haunt of thieves, drow, ancient beholders, sinister lycanthropes. Unlike a sealed off dungeon, it's alive and in use! Eat your heart out, Undermountain! Remember that threat of "wouldn't be nice if...?" Well, here it is. Wouldn't it be nice if TSR put out a supplement devoted to the Muzad?

Thumbs up to Calimport. Pull up your carpet and stay a while. Mind your purse, keep your hand on your dagger, and stay out of the shadows unless you're sure that's where you really want to be.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).


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