by Joe G. Kushner
Bluffside: City on the Edge
Published by Thunderhead Games
Edited by Jim Govreau and Becky Glenn
144 b & w pages, six page map
Bluffside, called City on the Edge, is home to lost history and a
dangerous future. The ruins were once Sem La Vah, a city large enough
to host three million people who were known as the Barrokks. The
denizens of this city suffered what has been called the Great Sundering,
putting an end to the Barrok civilization until explorers came and found
that what wiped out the Barrokks left behind deposits of adamantine.
Two hundred years, several alliances, and many invasions latter,
Bluffside stands out like a diamond in the rough.
Bluffside, Section By Section
Broken up into twelve different chapters with ten appendices, the book
boasts some impressive crunchy bits as well as providing the GM with a
place to put it all. The book is presented in standard format, meaning
two columns on most pages with art and tables breaking up the terrible
tyranny of text. The art ranges from great to a little hokey in places,
but I often had the feeling, such as with the bleeding goblin head, that
it's done in an exaggerated style. The character and monster based art
looks better than the buildings, which in many places look a little
clustered due to size limitations.
Chapter One, the introduction, provides the reader with an idea on how
to use the book, including what its abbreviations mean. For example,
POIs are places of interest, locations where characters are likely to
go. The history of Bluffside provides the GM with some background
material to use in Bluffside, but nothing so detailed that a GM couldn't
throw this setting into the Sword &
Sorcery's Scarred Lands or Troll
Lord's Erde with a little work. Most of the history focuses on the
last two hundred years, since the city was repopulated and the alliances
with strange races that have occurred in that time frame including steam
gnomes and the winged Sixam Iuena among others.
Chapter Three, "Timeline," and Four, "Population" (60,000 and growing
for those counting) aren't really chapters so much as bits of
information. Even Chapter Five, "Power Structure," is more about
providing the reader with a general flow of organizations than a
It's really chapters six through eight that give Bluffside life as each
one of these sections covers different parts of the city. From looking
at the cover, a casual glance will provide one with some interesting
information. The first part is that Bluffside isn't your traditional
city. Instead it's broken up into different mini-cities that can almost
be lifted whole and without work into other settings, making this a
truly modular city. Indeed, the focus of these chapters provides the GM
with an introduction via fiction, history, and a mini-map with POIs
(Places of Interest) noted thereon.
Chapter Six, Bluffside Proper, provides details on life in Old City, the
Miner's District, Temple District, Military Disctrict, Wizard District,
and New City. Each section boasts its own personality and details. Old
City is the original home of many of the settlers here and has an upper
class snobbery about it. Then again, it's also home to the Sixam
Ieuna's Aerie and the Embassy of the dragon-like Dragori. The Palace,
the seat of government in Bluffside, also towers over the city like some
boastful giant. In the Wizard District, each school of magic has it's
own 'house' to train in complete with colors and symbol.
The Temple District reminds me a little of Lankhmar's Street of the
Gods. Different religions are clustered together and one can either
worship one of the new deities within the book or use the local campaign
pantheon. One aspect of Bluffside that's different is the
acknowledgement of 'foreign' gods like the temple Valhalla. There, the characters can meet Walnd, who worships Odin and seeks to make Odin's name known to all who shop Bluffside. Of course, there are those little crazy gods like Carl's Temple where the crazed members of a dangerous cult worship Gray Ooze.
During the New City's history, the steam gnomes are discovered. The
rivalry between New City and Old City begins to heat up as well. Part of
this is from people moving to New City and flexing their power where
the strength of old government isn't quite as effective.
Chapter Seven, the Undercity, provides the GM with the sewer system
layout. This is a boon to any GM looking for some ideas on how the
sewer systems might work in a fantasy setting (I would've loved to see
something like this in Sword & Sorcery's Mithril). Just as
important are the dangers of the sewers, and I'm not just talking about
wandering monsters. There's diseases like Blinding sickness, Filth
fever, Typhoid, Cholera, and Wheezing Lung to deal with here.
Chapter Eight details the last section of the city, but certainly not
the least, Sordadon. This is the small island in the Bay that was
possible only with the intervention of the Steam Gnomes whose technology
enables trade to flow from the heights of Old Town to this man made
island. Sordadon has numerous canals and boats with different districts
being broke up by color. Blue for Harbor, Green for Sea, Yellow for
Shipping and Red for Commoners. Each one of these districts has its
own POIs like the Golden Palace Inn or the Citadel of Phenbras, the
prison of Bluffside.
Chapter Nine, "Guilds," provides the GM with the different powers in
the city. This chapter has some crossover with Chapter Five in my mind,
and the two probably could've been combined into one larger chapter.
Here the reader can find out about the Archaeological Guild, the Miners
and Burrowers Society, the Society of Explorers and Adventuers, and the
Trader's League. Each organization only receives a little detail
though, another reason this would've been good to merge with
Chapter Ten, "Secret Societies," provides the GMs with several such groups: the Chill Brings,
an organization that seeks to bring the world to a frozen time; the
Golden Sabres, a collection of criminals who deal in various illicit
trades; the Hammers (who made an appearance in Interludes), another
order of rogues dealing in illegal activities; Order of the Flame, a
guild that seeks to destroy ice based creatures; and Umbra Incognita,
the "official" thieves guild of Bluffside.
Chapter Eleven, "Outside Bluffside," includes a regional map that shows
the lands around the city. This includes the Coldwind Forest, the small
hamlet of Kirkwood, the city of Perten, the fortress of the Orcs of the
Two Fisted Clan, and other hints at material like the Dragon Sands,
another setting coming up from the guys at Thunderhead Games or the
Steam Gnome Civlizations. Despite the breadth of coverage, the material
isn't deep. In this case, I feel that's a good thing since the city is
meant to be portable and providing too much detail on the outlaying
areas would ground Bluffside in a campaign world instead of remaining a campaign setting.
Chapter twelve, "Religion," introduces the gods of Bluffside. One of the
interesting things here is that the gods here fuel the spells of both
good and evil clerics. This is a route taken by a few other publishers,
but for the most part, a path unused. The gods are not provided any
statistics. Each god has information on the deity and its worshippers,
including a symbol. Most of these gods have no specific names. Instead,
the gods have general names such as the Great Provider, the Ethereal
One, the Lord of Ice, or the Miner. There are twelve gods listed, with
only two, the Builder and the Miner, having names, Hlarin and Tagore,
both steam gnomes who reached godhood.. The Gods Worshipped in
Bluffside table provides the GM with a quick reference of the Names,
Prominent Domains, Weapons, Symbols and Portfolio.
For many, the true strength of Bluffside isn't going to be in the
city, but rather the massive amount of crunchy stuff that comes with
it, detailed in the appendixes. Appendix One provides full stats for
the NPCs listed in the book. No role-playing notes are included here,
nor any page references. Instead, each NPC is listed by first name.
Appendix Two covers the creatures of Bluffside. These include the
adamantine guardian, a construct who guards the adamantine in Bluffside,
as well as the massive Bay Guardian, a magical whale-like beast.
Appendix Three provides stats for the Guards of Bluffside, broken up by
area, in alphabetical order.
Some of the best material comes in Appendix Four, "Races." Here, the
Dragori are provided stats. This includes the Dragori-Nen, the
Dragori-Fehr, and the Draogi-Sah. Each race is a related but different
from one another. The Nen are strong and enduring, while the Fehr are
fast but frail, while the Sah are charismatic but lacking in strength.
Each race has a full listing of bonuses and penalties. In addition, the
Nevaequariani (Nevae or Dark Souls), Sel'varahn, Sixam Ieuna, and Steam
Gnomes are detailed. The Nevae are half high elf and half drow, while
the Sel'Varahn are an aquatic race that trades with Bluffside. The
Sixam Ieuna are winged human like warriors, while the Steam Gnomes are
mechanical experts whose machine knowledge makes them valuable to
More high quality material comes in Appendix Five, "Prestige Classes."
These include the Bluffside Mountain Ranger, the Cat Burglar, the
Explorer, and the Tunnel Fighter. Each of these is a ten level PrC and
while some may not be for every player, GMs will find use for the
others. The Cat Burglar in particular looks like it was designed to
play havoc with a player's piece of mind.
Appendix Six, "Spells," includes 24 mystic innovations. There are high powered spells like Ice Meteors
and Blizzard, to moderately powerful spells like Acid Bath, Shadow Form,
Appendix Seven, "Equipment," includes Archaeologist Tools, Tumbler Locks,
and Stethoscopes among the mundane items and Tail weapons for the
Dragoni like Needle, Razors and Spikes. My only complaint about this
section is that the information isn't provided in a table, which would speed up reference.
Appendix Eight, "Magic Items," includes unique magic items as well as
standard ones. Among the items listed are the Benandrith, a quarterstaff that enables its
user to wield it as a double weapon, and Gauntlet of Ice, a weapon that
enables the user to fire a cone of cold or ray of frost. Each item comes with information on how to create them as well.
Appendix Nine, "Feats," includes Aerial Combat, Intuitive Knowledge, Power
Dive, Skill Sacrifice, Spellmarking, and Swim-by Attack. Intuitive
Knowledge is a bit different for a feat, in that it provides the
character skill points for using up a feat slot. Skill Sacrifice
goes the other route and allows a bard to sacrifice skill points to gain
spells. Spellmarking allows the a spellcaster to craft a spell into a
target's skin to call up latter. Aerial Combat and Swim-by Attack both
augment the user's ability to fight in those environments.
Appendix Ten, "Domains," includes Affliction, Combat, Emotion, Entropy,
Flight, History, Ice, Inventory, Mining, Nature, Peace, Shadow,
Skullduggery, Undeath and Weather. Each domain includes the deities
associated with the domain, granted powers, and list of spells from 1st
through 9th level. Unique spells introduced in this book are marked by
not being bold faced for ease of reference.
The book wraps up with a three page Index and closes out with the obligatory Open
Game License. Well, not quite. A one page ad for Interludes: Sands of
Pain takes up the very last page.
The map is glued to the book and was easy to remove. I was quite
pleased at this as I'm terrible removing maps from books and often wind
up breaking out a modeling knife to remove 'em. Bluffside's is a great overhead
six-page map, but it's mostly for show as there is no legend and one of
the sections of the city, Sordadon, is missing.
In addition to the book itself, Thunderhead Games has what it calls "The
Vault." This is a collection of files meant to augment the Bluffside
experience, which so far includes various maps of the undercity, symbols of
the gods, and other city maps. The only thing I didn't like about the
undercity maps is they were done in .FCW format, which meant I
had to download the good old Campaign Cartographer viewer. The price
was right, though.
Overall, Bluffside offers a lot to like. The
portability is very high, especially since each part of the city can be
lifted and placed in a campaign without the other pieces. The generic names of the
gods provides the GM with the opportunity to either slot his own gods
into the setting, or use these gods without a great deal of pain. The
introduction of new races occurs in a manner that makes sense and
doesn't overwhelm the human population. The trick of putting all the
crunchy goodies in the back enables those looking only for such treats
to go right to the section they need.
GMs looking to add some spice to their campaign should look at Bluffside. One would do well to augment
the material in the book and craft their own campaign world with
Bluffside as the apple of the campaign's eye. Any GM should consider the $22.95
a good investment.