Review: Scarrport, City of Secrets

Scarrport: City of Secrets (with two r's) is part of Reality Deviant Publishing's line of Campaign Cutout products, which are in a nutshell campaign-neutral plug-n-play elements that "anyone can use". These things are great in concept, but if the concept doesnt work then no one cares. What with me being very leery of 3rd-party products, I was hesitant when Red Jason threw it my way, but I was pleasantly surprised with the whole package.

Mostly, this is a big book detailing a big city. Its got a heavy emphasis on the swashbuckling and steampunk genre, which go together about as well as peanut butter and chocolate. I dont see a lot of products that cater to either style of play when it comes to fantasy games, and considering that 4th Edition is almost a year old it adds many desired elements to the game. For some reason while browsing through the pdf it evokes China Meville's Perdido Street Station and The Scar, which I think a lot of people would say is a very good thing.

Dropping Scarrport into an existing campaign is as easy as finding or drawing two rivers that intersect, so the entry bar is set very low. The city is very well fleshed out with a lot of NPCs, adventure hooks, and excellent-quality maps. The writing style fits the tone of the supplement, creating a vivid city. However at 116 pages you get quite a bit more than just a port city: it also comes with a new class, three races, more loot (including guns), and monsters (including steampunk robots).

The elementalist is a fully-fledged 30-level striker that keys off of the elemental power source. While they dont explicitely state what the power source does, its not hard to figure out: they command one of the four basic elements, similar to a geomancer in Final Fantasy Tactics. You attune yourself to an element, which can affect how your forces (elemental powers) work. For example, earth-based elementalists deal bonus damage if they dont move, and fire-elementalists deal bonus damage if there is a source of fire nearby.
For some reason, I would expect an elementalist to rely on Constitution, Dexterity, or even Charisma for their primary attack stat, but at least they use Con and Dex for their secondaries. I suppose it helps them not overlap with the sorcerer.
Add to the mix are some elementalist paragon paths and even a pair of epic destinies and you have a very complete package, here.

Of all the races I was surprised that I actually liked the otterkin at all. They're pretty much what you would expect (anthro-otters), and are really good at ganging up on people and literally slipping away. My first character would probably be an otterkin rogue unless Josh picked it up first (British accent and all).

My favorite of the monsters are by far the steampunk creatures, which are big robots that have a chance of malfunctioning if they roll nat 1's and 2's. Its interesting to see creatures with "flaws" that go beyond having vulnerability to various damage types. Is it balanced? I have no idea, but its evocative and cool.

The equipment section is a zany repetoire of various devices, many magic but also a hefty chunk that fall into a "steampunk" category. Gremlin armor increases your height if you are Small, while power armor gives you an attack bonus to Strength-based attacks (once per day). There's new stuff for each body slot, as well as mechanical mounts and watercraft vehicles.
There are guns, which are superior weapons with limited shots and not much else. I'm a bit underwhelmed by them and have no idea why anyone would take a gun considering the cost to buy and maintain one (they get attack penalties if you dont clean it every extended rest). Frankly I would give them the brutal and/or high crit properties as an easy-enough houserule, if for no other reason than to make them balanced. The two-handed guns each deal 1d12 damage, but dont have any properties aside from taking up precious actions to reload.

I only have two major criticisms. The first is that some of the art is bad, but on average its decent or really good. Of larger concern (and complaint) is that racial feats were lumped right after each respective race instead of in a consolidated feat section. This is mostly a nitpick, but a consistent format in Wizards of the Coast books.

That being said, neither of those are any reason to not get the book. On the contrary, it would serve as a very good source for running a thematic campaign. I would recommend it for, if nothing else, the new equipment and class. However, its got a lot of good stuff packed into it. Easily worth the money whether you go pdf or physical book.

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