Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue marks a new direction for the Dungeons and Dragons line of game supplements, one that I hope to see more of in the coming year. It is an almost rule system-free setting book, full of art and descriptions and game opportunities.
Not terribly long ago D&D people Wizards of the Coast released 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. To say this received a mixed response is to put it lightly. It was a marked change from the 3rd edition that had a pretty entrenched fanbase. Many of those players refused to change over, and it didn't create new fans in droves, which led to something of a problematic system.
It had strengths. It works wonderfully in board game style settings and Wizards games Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt all sold so well that Wizards is spinning off games all using the same rules. They are quite fun and worth checking out. The table top game, though? Not so much.
Wizards is trying a bold new direction and developing Dungeons and Dragons Next, using a ton of fan feedback and playtesting to try and bring back from all editions the game elements fans loved while staying away from problem causers and bugs.
This ambitious goal is a good one but also time consuming. So
reluctant to make 4h edition only supplements but not having D&D Next
ready for printing yet left Wizards in a bind. They are getting around
this by creating a line of books that will help expand and inform
their current existing worlds that can be used with any edition of
rules, Menzoberranzan is the first of these.
Deep beneath the Forgotten Realms live the nefarious Dark Elves or Drow. Ran for the most part by matriarchal priestess family leaders in
service to the Spider Queen Goddess Lolth the elves plot against each other and the world at large. Menzoberranzan is their largest city.
Full of scheming families, factions and power groups everyone in the dark city has an angle. Chances at great wealth or horrible death
The book is solidly written by Brian James and Eric Menge. It starts with an overview of Drow society and the worship of their vile goddess providing some concepts that will be touched on through the book. It moves into the Factions of Drow within the city. These are the families of noble Drow that form the backbone of the ruling council, and includes those from the colleges and other lesser groups all vying for their slice of the pie. This is one of the most fun sections of the book, with factions having different adventuring options and nice portraits of all the major players. Lots of chances for mayhem can be found here.
Following that is the breakdown of the city and environs. A lovely map comes with the book and must be carefully removed from the back before use. Menzoberranzan is a veritable underground New York and all sorts of strange places compose it and surround it. Even more adventuring opportunities are provided in and out of town in each section.
The final section, Be A Drow, has instructions on all things Dark Elven, including how to create unique Drow characters with allegiances and secrets and enmeshed in city politics and instructions for running an evil group in an evil city.
This is a well done book with useful material. I like the suggestions for any era in the Forgotten Realms universe and the useful artwork depicting the various people, places and things in the city. If you are a Forgotten Realms fan, you will want this, and you'll want it since this is D&D is going in the future. I hope the remaining D&D books before D&D Next are all up to this level of quality.