If you read this blog, you know I'm always looking for stuff to use in city adventures. So the kind people at Troll & Toad sent me a copy of an AD&D supplement I've always wanted to get a look at--Lankhmar, City of Adventure.
If you don't know, Lankhmar is the city where Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories are usually based. Also, if you don't know, some of them are fantastic. They have a sort of pulp medieval/noir aesthetic. So anyway...
Whenever I hear someone wax rhapsodic about some old (or new) supplement, I always want a chance to get a good look at it before I go to the effort and expense of actually getting it--which is hard, so I almost never buy anything.
So anyway, I'm going to tell you what I would want to know if I was considering getting this. Here's exactly what's in it:
Chapter 1 consists of synopses of published Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories followed by suggestions for how to use the ideas in the stories for your campaign.
I figure if you read this blog, you probably have good enough taste to have read every Fafhrd and Grey Mouser story you can get your hands on already and smart enough that you could figure out how to use the ideas in D&D on your own--still, it's nice to see a D&D product so forthrightly acknowledging its literary roots.
Chapter 2 is the best and most generally useful part--maps and maps and maps.
The first one is the one illustrating this blog entry--in real life it is much clearer (click on it, then click on it again to get an idea). It is followed by several pages of blow-up maps of each of the eleven districts. They are mostly just hollow shapes of anonymous buildings, but all are large and clear enough to completely label on your own and put in your own buildings. Major landmarks from the stories are labelled, but not in such a way as to interfere with repurposing them. Some of the buildings have decent adventure-seeds attached, some are just functional.
Also: all of these maps are reprinted in a special supplement in the back along with twelve nifty extra city geomorphs (about 3 square blocks each) you can slot in anywhere.
Also: there's a poster-sized full-color version of the map that you can use to explain to your players where stuff is--though since it's in color it's a little harder to re-purpose if you're not actually adventuring in Lankhmar.
These maps are a perfect place to start for any urban location--and probably big enough to keep the PCs busy forever, though you're going to have to decide what all the buildings are by yourself.
Chapter 3 is short descriptions of other places in Leiber's world--Newhon--outside Lankhmar. It's sketchy, but it's a conscientious round-up of Leiber's locales. The only map in this section shows where everything is in relationship to everything else.
Chapter 4 contains stats and descriptions of characters from the books, including stats for Fafhrd and the Mouser at three different ages.
Chapter 5 is a list of a few dozen factions, from the Assassin's Guild to the Astrologers' Consortium, along with short descriptions and the relative social status of each. It isn't quite set up so you can use these interfactional rivalries as a game in itself (or an independent sytem motoring the rest of the game), but if you're modelling a very political campaign, you might find these a helpful springboard for thinking about factionf.
Chapter 6 is about Lankhmar's gods--Glaggerk, Hate, the Red God, the Rat God and about a dozen others. Again, this is (mostly, presumably) all in the books, but having all of the gods and their details collected together is interesting and useful.
Chapter 7 has 20 monsters with stats. The Marsh Leopard is typical--statwise it's a lot like something already in the Monster Manual but the fact that it can be detected because of its "glowing blue eyes" is a nice touch. There aren't enough pictures to make the monster section indispensable.
Chapter 8 has special rules and systems for urban adventures, and other Lankhmar-specific details like what festival happens during what month. These range from the lite-but-possibly-useful (social status rules with 5 different ways your status can go up or down) to the lite-and-destined-to-be-hacked-immediately (the sketchy legal system rules) to the heavy-but-useless (a random building scheme that requires you to roll on at minimum three tables--with a list of modifiers for each--if the PCs dash into a random building in the middle of a game. Why not one long table?).
The chapter ends with a set of generic maps which are ok but some of which are so larded with weird symbols (why not the traditional dollar-sign-wall for secret doors?) that the small benefit you get from using a pregen building could be outweighed by the pain of interpreting it.
Chapter 9 has rules for converting an AD&D campaign to a match a more Newhonian style, mostly concerning lowering the magic level. Only useful if you're not pretty much DIYing it already, which, if you're buying a 25-year-old supplement for an out-of-print game, you probably are.
Chapter 10 has suggestions on dialing back the body-count to match a more noirish mood as well as a short adventure (a heist) and 18 paragraph-long subgenre-appropriate adventure seeds. They're decent.
So, overall, how good is it? Well, it doesn't exactly make it so you'll never have to do any work ever again, but since you can still pick it up for less than 20 bucks, it might be worth it if you're building your own city. If you've read but don't own the Leiber books, it nicely extracts a good deal of the adventure fuel from them.
Let me know if this was useful, I may do it again.