Thursday, June 18, 2015

Marlinko Fever

Colorful, eccentric cities are a fantasy staple: Lankhmar, Viriconium, and New Crobuzon, are characters as distinct (or intriguingly ambiguous) as any humans in their respective stories, perhaps more so. While gaming has given us a lot of place names to hang our on imaginings on or perhaps tools to use to apply to creating these sorts of places, it has given us very few of actually places. (Modesty forbids me from mentioning the City of Weird Adventures. Wait. No it didn't.) Whatever size you think that pantheon is, you can now add Marlinko to it.

I'm listed in the credits of Chris Kutalik's Fever-Dreaming Marlinko in recognition of my haphazard punctuation hectoring of the product in its various stages, and I am a partner in the secretive Hydra Collective, so I'm biased--but also well-positioned to tell you what's good in this thing that was only meant to be a stretch goal for another product's Kickstarter and has now grown to comparable length and scope.

First off, Marlinko has the Slavic spice (They exist. Look it up!) flavoring the stew of Vance and Leiber and Chris's own fine sense of the absurd that informs the Hill Cantons setting in general. This isn't just Appendix N with a twist, though. Each of the contradas (quarters/neighborhoods) are detailed briefly enough so as not to wear out their welcome, but in-depth enough to make them seem like distinct places. Each has its own traditions, history, and possibly even deities, described in a manner I would call Glorantha for the old school oriented, meaning enough detail to show that genuine care was put into it, but enough humor to show no one is taking it too seriously--and always with an eye toward gameability.

Then, there are NPCs and locations. Rogues and scoundrels, all (or at least mostly)--some of whom seem like they have more story than what you are given. That's another important point, here: Marlinko is lived in. It didn't spring fully formed from Chris's brow, but rather it's been used and abused by the Nefarious Nine, the PCs of the ongoing Hill Cantons Google+ Experience.

The presentation of Marlinko puts it above some old school city books too (I know. Heresy!) Jeremy Duncan's and Jason Sholtis's work is put to perfect use with subjects ideal for their styles. Luka Rejec's maps make me feel like I need to throw money at him to get him to draw maps for some project of mine. I mean, look at this:

Then there are a lot of fun generators: news, tiger-wrestling, carousing. I'm not so big on those things, but they're fun to read. Some of them were polished or designed by Robert Parker, who is a man who I sometimes think believes the gaming is in the subgaming, so the love is there.

Anyway, Fever-Dreaming Marlinko is available where all fine Hydra products are sold.


R Parker said...

It's true, I do love subsystems. Mercifully, with Chris at the helm they are simple enough to be easily used at the table.

garrisonjames said...

That is a great map. Great cover, too. Sounds like a fun project, might pick this up when the budget opens up again.