The Fantasy Cartographic's Locales, Volume One is a good example of a well-done map product. This 46-page PDF (which sells for $3.00) describes nine different locations in varying detail, each with one or maps. Each location includes a physical overview, a brief referee's guide, and one or more "possibilities," which are other ways to use the site and associated maps. None of these locations can simply be used "as-is." Rather, the referee must use them as springboards for his own imagination, filling in details, providing game stats, and generally making them his own. They're thus intended as "raw materials," albeit fairly refined ones, from which the referee can construct his own adventuring sites. Speaking for myself, this is exactly what I want out of products like this: a solid foundation on which I can build.
A couple of highlights of Locales are:
- The Column Fortress at Deep Rushing: Consisting of eighteen different levels, this is probably the most impressive and evocative locale in the product. The fortress is carved from a gigantic column of rock within a mammoth cavern. The un-keyed maps, with their many winding stairs, are absolutely terrific, and I'm planning on swiping some of them for use in Dwimmermount.
- The Temple Tomb of Bgixilidynon: Unpronounceable name aside, this resting place for a demonic artifact has become warped and twisted, seemingly defying the lays of reality, as it warps around and through itself. Not as complex as a tesseract, the temple tomb is nonetheless a place where normal physical laws don't apply and mapping might prove mind-bending.
If I have a criticism of Locales, Volume One, it's the unevenness of the nine entries. While even the shortest and most straightforward locations are useful, they suffer greatly in comparison to their more inspired fellows. I would have preferred more locations of the caliber of, say, the Column Fortress, even if it meant fewer locations overall. I suspect that some might also find the overviews a bit sparse, but that's a criticism I don't share. I like the austerity of the presentation, as it's the maps that are most important to me, as they should be to anyone purchasing a product like this.
There does not appear to be a successor volume to this one and that's a shame. I'd love to see more products in this line and hope, if they should ever appear, that they provide more unusual and exotic locations. For guys like me who have trouble mapping even a simple dungeon, a collection of really bizarre location maps would be a godsend.
Presentation: 6 out of 10
Creativity: 7 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10
Buy This If: You just need some well-done maps and are prepared to fill in the details on your own.
Don't Buy This If: You're expecting fully fleshed out adventuring sites.