Beginnings – Westbrook

Beginnings – Westbrook

From: 3AM Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Beginnings: Westbrook is a new d20 Setting Sourcebook from 3AM Games.

Westbrook is an ambitious sourcebook put out by 3AM Games that contains the complete and concise information about a small town in the world of Pyrianthine Lands – an original fantasy setting for D&D d20.  It is the first book in the Beginnings series and is intended to be a quick and easy jumping-off-point for new D&D players.

The heart of d20 fantasy roleplaying is starting simple and building to something epic.  Getting started has to be one of the hardest things for a DM.  Beginnings is written with that in mind.  It is a simple and very focused setting and scenario book.  A little less than half the book is general background and descriptive material for a small but growing town called Westbrook in the kingdom of Jurithia.  The remainder of the book is basic scenarios for a DM to use to kick off a campaign.

From the page 2: “…leave the round for a hearty meal, safe rest, and a bit of comfort at the Grey Griffon Inn ”

Background: Interestingly, Westbrook is one of those books that does not inundate a  reader with a whole series of useless information about the particular setting.  It gives the DM just enough to get a feel for the town, its history and its current denizens.  Westbrook is not a huge town, but by no means is it small either.  It is right on the verge of growth that it may or may not be able to handle.  

I’ll be honest, nothing about the town is notable or outstandingly epic.  However, I believe that’s the point.  It is as realistic a town setting that one can have in a fantasy setting. It has its politics, its rivalries and its mysteries. It is a quaint little town with every day issues, every day people, and a little magic thrown in there to remind you that you are in a fantasy setting. 

In the background and setting material, one can find geographical information (if the DM chooses to set it in the Pyrianthine setting), a brief history, notes on the prominent races, and social classes.  There are also summary sections on major religions, government and law enforcement, and examples of laws in the form of  royal pronouncements, ministerial decree, and town law. One thing I find interesting is the NPC section – which includes no statistics for the NPCs.  The ability scores, levels, and skills are listed in the appendix.  It is quite apparent that the author thinks the story behind a person is more important than the stats, which is admirable. 

The town is not overly detailed, although there are descriptions of the more important places in town and a few maps.  Much is left for the DM to come up on his own, which I find refreshing. It gives the DM just enough to work with but not too much to intimidate him into doing something else.

Adventures: The campaign and adventures revolve around the fear and confusion surrounding the growth of the town.  In a funny kind of way, the introduction to the campaign reminded me of when Walmart comes to a small town of today.  Take that kind of thing but put it into a fantasy realm, and you have some interesting possibilities.  In fact, it is not Walmart coming to town, but a tradesman’s guild which will blossom the town with incredible growth.  However, not everyone is happy about the coming of the tradesman.

The author provides a wide variety of hooks for the DM to tie the players into the plot as well as advice on how to get a campaign started.  It is perfect for a first time DM, giving rarely seen advice on how to cleanly get each player involved, doing one-on-one sessions and making sure each player has a feel for the campaign setting as well as their character. 

The adventure centers around a plot that a clan of were-rats plan to hatch on the town to prevent the coming of the tradesman.  The players are brought together to try and foil that plan.  There are 4 total adventures in the book, each building on each other slowly with good pace.  Nope, they aren’t world threatening and epic.  They are simple to start out with and grow to something larger as time goes on.  But all of them center around Westbrook and never really get to a point that it is unrealistically epic. Eventually it grows to quest for a magic weapon to fight the evil were-rats.  Through great peril, the characters will find the weapon and prepare for the final battle with the lycanthropes to save Westbrook.

From the back cover: “ The Beginnings line of books is written to help DMs start fantasy d20 campaigns quickly and easily with minimum preparation.”

The adventures are very well laid out, with the typical “text to be read to the players” boxed out and random encounter tables as well as NPCs and monsters clearly laid out.  Without a doubt, this accomplishes what it claims to –  ‘help DMs start fantasy d20 campaigns quickly and easily with minimum preparation.’

System: From a system perspective, this adds very little that is new to the d20 system.  It is simply a setting and campaign starter.  It is compatible with the 3.5 version of D&D.  In the appendices, there is a section on Game Rule Information where it goes into rules on local diseases and additional domain (Craft Domain) and spells associated to it.  Also included is information on some additional NPC classes used in the book as well as details on the local religions and gods.

Layout: The layout is very eye-catching and the art is very energetic.  The cartography work is well done, also.  The internal art is also well done and not over done.  I like the look and the feel of the book.  It definitely inspires and makes the DM want to open the book and explore.

In conclusion, despite the lack of epic-ness in the storyline that I like to have, I liked this book and would recommend it to beginning DMs that really want to get a feel for a good and hearty D&D game (in fact, I’ll probably give it to my step-son).  I like the look and the feel of the book, as well as the small town atmosphere, giving it a more tangible realism to it than some adventures and setting books.  It’s not overwhelming for a DM, since he can easily get into it, and everything is there for him to reference.  There is plenty more potential for adventure in this setting, and I look forward to more of this series.

For more details on 3AM Games and their new d20 Setting Sourcebook “Beginnings: Westbrook” check them out at their website and at all of your local game stores.

Beginnings: Westbrook
From: 3AM Games
Type of Game: d20 Setting Sourcebook
Written by: Don Bessinger
Developed by: Don Bessinger, D. L. Loftis
Cover Art by: Charlie Shultz
Additional Art by: Alex McVey, Charlie Shultz
Number of Pages: 126
Game Components Included: One Softback book
Game Components Not Included: d20 Core Rules books
Retail Price: $ 19.95 (US)
Item Number: 3AM1100
ISBN: 1-59516-000-0

Reviewed by: Ron McClung