Vornheim by Zak S. [2011, I Hit It With My Axe and LotFP]

Vornheim is a beautiful, byzantine mess of a kit for running a fantasy city that evokes all the bizarrerie and depth of those crazy places dreamed up by Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance.  

It sounds like total fucking hyperbole, I know. I would probably think the same thing if I hadn't seen a copy of this little (8.5" x 6") tome yet.

I've been engrossed in this thing since I opened it. I'm not as regular a reader of Zak's blog as I probably should be, so I was a bit blown away by lines like this, from the intro to Vornheim on page 6:
"Associations and small conspiracies metastasize and meld throughout Vornheim like shadows in torchlight, making it difficult, in the interlinked enormity, to clearly divide one from the next."
Right away I started to "see" Vornheim. It's this rickety -- in some cases partially or wholly dilapidated infrastructure, not only in the physical sense (the city itself), but in the social (the people who live there) and metaphysical (the invisible forces that influence it) as well. A senescent city-elemental of Gormenghastian proportions.

My favorite illustration is probably the "Typical Tower" on page 34. He's made the building into an urban sub-enclave. Apartments are sandwiched between shops and inns, butchers and law offices. There are furnaces near the top that exist to transform snow into water that must turn the whole place into a dripping, dank and moldy stone labyrinth. Towers are connected by bridges. And the whole structure is topped by a stately (probably quite drafty) home for some wealthy personage.

Keep in mind that this thing is full of art. It's a big part of why I love this thing so much. If the original edition of Carcosa had a flaw (and it only had one possible flaw, IMHO) it's that it didn't have interior art aside from the setting map in the middle (which is awesome btw). Zak did some great pieces for this, not least of which is the map on the inside of the dust jacket. 

You can get it from Noble Knight Games or direct from LotFP. At a run of only 2000 copies, this book is also a great investment.

This totally raises the bar, you realize. I want to make something half this interesting. Seriously. 

Make more books, Zak.


  1. And yet it got overlooked at the Ennies in favour of D&D4 dungeon tiles. Sometimes I despair for the hobby, I really do.

    This review is spot on. Vornheim should change the game and make people think about how to put together an rpg book. I hope the community is up to the challenge, as it would be sad if it were a one-off.

  2. Once I opened it I realized that I should have ordered two. Or six. Ah, well.

    Right now I'm daydreaming about Vornheim meets Greyhawk 2000 (Dragon #277).