Review: Pathfinder City of Strangers

Author(s): James L. Sutter
Audience: GM/Players
Price: Print – $19.99 / PDF – $13.99
Pages: 64

While I typically try to review items that have been released within the last two or three months, I am making an exception for City of Strangers. I picked up in preparation for an upcoming Play-by-Post game that is going to take place in Kaer Maga in the region of Varisia. I wanted to have some more information for my character build and this looked like the book to have. I am very glad I picked this one up, it does not disappoint!

Oh, and did I mention Kaer Maga sits atop a massive cliff and has been built in the ancient ruins of a fortress?  With six sides composed of eighty foot high stone walls, the city is an impressive sight sitting atop this massive cliff.

What is in this book

City of Strangers is a 64 page that is part of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting series of books from Paizo. This book is dedicated to the city of Kaer Maga which is located in the Varisia region of Golarion. The book includes a map of the city, history of the city, an overview of the city districts, the people of Kaer Maga, the area beneath Kaer Maga, a prestige class and a new monster.

Inside the front cover is a relatively detailed map of the city. The districts and locations described in further detail in the book are marked. The map was well done and helps the reader put things in relation to each other at a glance.

The first portion of the book is the introduction which delves into the history of the city and then moves into a look at the city from an overview perspective. The various districts are touched upon, brief mention of the Undercity and the stat block for the city is listed.

The next section begins the in-depth review of the city. We get a closer look at the geography of the city including a description of its location and the appearance of the city once inside. We learn more about the eleven districts of the city and how eight of them are in the ring or the wall around the city and the remaining three are in the open air core of the city. This section also covers the resources and economy of the city.

This chapter then moves into a more detailed look at each of the districts within Kaer Maga.  Each district receives attention to what makes it unique from the other districts, a brief mention of certain notable locations and a mention of influential NPCs in that district. Within this section are some sidebars that include a magic item, a closer look at slavery in Kaer Maga, city plot hooks, and more.

The next chapter covers the people in Kaer Maga. It leads with the various Pathfinder classes and how they fit into the city. A similar approach is taken with the races as well. Next up in this chapter looks at the government in Kaer Maga and the city’s relationship with cities and bordering regions, followed by a look at religion in Kaer Maga.

This chapter then moves into a look at key players and factions within the city. There is everything from arcane power groups to golem making families of power to rival gangs in the Oriat district and more. There are many factions at work within the city and this section of the chapter helps describe each of these to the reader.

The next chapter in the book takes an in-depth look at what lies beneath the city of Kaer Maga. Built atop towering cliffs there is plenty of room for an undercity. The first portion covers the Halflight path which is an underground trade route that works its way up to the top of the cliffs. Going on from there the chapter talks about the rest of the Undercity and includes a well drawn map to give perspective to each section. A full page random encounters chart helps the GM have an idea of what one is apt to encounter beneath the city proper.

A new prestige class is included in this book as well, the Bloatmage. The Bloatmage is a mage that has figured out how to get their bodies to produce more blood than normal to gain greater spellcasting abiltity.

A new monster called the caulborn are also included in the book. These creatures were one of the early settlers of this mysterious city that is mentioned in the history of the city.

Thoughts about the book

The artwork and cartography are both very well done in this book as I have grown to expect from Paizo products. The map on the inside cover of the book is very well done and the map of the Undercity later in the book really helps give a perspective as to how things are situated under the city itself.

This book is definitely heavy on the fluff side, which is a positive to me. There are so many things going on in this city that the plot hooks for running in this city just leap out at a GM considering running a campaign in or near this city. If for some reason these ideas aren’t leaping off the page at you there are sidebars to help jumpstart your creativity.

The districts and factions in the book are well detailed, but still leave plenty of room for a GM to work their own ideas into the city. This blend caters to both GMs wanting ready-made organizations and structure as well as the GM wanting to bring their own flavor to the table.  For some reason the rivaling street gangs in Oriat were particularly appealing, likely because it brought modern day gang issues into a fantasy setting.

I also really liked the imagery this city brings to mind. It is easy to picture it perched atop these huge cliffs above the valley floor far below, thick walls that hold entire city districts within them. Coupled with an undercity that spans multiple levels for those that want to adventure underground there is a lot to experience in Kaer Maga.

The Bloatmage Prestige Class had lots of flavor to it and could see it being useful for an NPC. Not sure I would ever consider it for a PC, but certainly some fun to be had for GMs. The caulborn monster was an interesting critter, especially given the history of Kaer Maga. One can always use more critters, right?

I would definitely like to continue to see treatment of various cities in Golarion as Kaer Maga received in City of Strangers. I was very impressed with this book and cannot believe it took me this long to stumble across it.

Final Rating

I rate this book as a 5 out of 5 for its fluff content. The content is well done, interesting and just jumps out at you with ideas as a player and GM alike. This book has a minimal amount of crunch in it and while I like the flavor of it I rate it a 4 out of 5. Overall I give this book a 5 out 5 tankard rating. All city supplements should be more like this one.

Tankard Rating

5 tankards out of 5 tankards