Posted on November 13, 2009 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
In Unknown Armies, something called the Swap Meet exists. It was one of those mystical places where you buy the memory of the date you never had in exchange for the memory of watching your first child being born. While Goblin Markets doesn’t come across quite as harshly as the former example, the theme of the book is caveat emptor. The reason why I’m bringing up both games is to illustrate how wickedly cool and troublesome such a place can become. These places are hard to get into and so much more difficult to escape. Oh, you may leave the market easily enough. It’s just the choices made while midst the vendors that will haunt you. These places allow for once-in-a-lifetime meetings between characters, a look at what the characters really want, and enough subplots to seed an entire campaign.
This book comes in at just under fifty pages; nevertheless, I found myself extremely impressed with the attention to layout and artwork. White Wolf appears to be taking a great deal of pride in their PDF releases. With attractive offerings like this, I believe their gamble will pay out for them.
I won’t go into layout much because I’ve covered the ground many times. Each line at White Wolf has its own dedicated fonts, borders, and such. As a reader and avid collector, I am totally one of their targets for doing this. The Changeling line, while not necessarily my favorite, does appeal to me artistically.
So, what exactly appeals to me? The artwork is in a mix of greens, blacks, and whites, which lends well towards the Fae. None of the pieces in this release doubled me over, but the talented cover art by Justin Norman is riddled with details. It’s a bit dark (the reds and blacks mesh a little too much at the center of the cover). It carries the atmosphere of the market well (as do the pieces within the book). The artwork shows a few of the vendors, of which I found the spider coolest.
This book is broken into five sections:
1. Prologue: Bought and Broken
3. Chapter One: To Market We Will Go
4. Chapter Two: Buying and Selling
5. Chapter Three: Market Stories
The four-page prologue is a well-written piece about the perils of dealing with the Goblin Market. I believe it is an imaginative snapshot of what players and Storytellers can do with this specific setting.
The introduction is textbook White Wolf. We have definitions of the Theme and Mood, a How-To for this book, some inspirations, and a sidebar explaining the Storytelling Adventure System. The inspirations for this book came from surprising sources, which make sense upon inspection. To see Demolition Man as an inspiration for a Changeling game made me smile just a little (to find inspiration in that Stallone/Snipes movie causes smiles a plenty).
Chapter One discusses the fiction behind the market. It is here that advice is offered on topics such as finding the market, offending the vendors, and various types of markets. This chapter is mostly absent of rules as it just paints a picture of what the market is and is not.
Chapter Two is for the rule lovers. There are several new quirks that can be used from this book. Goblin Contracts, new merits, new backgrounds (I like Abstractions), and rules on making those pesky deals. Many rules in this chapter can be roleplayed; however, they do have a concrete base to fall back on if that isn’t your cup of tea. One thing I really liked about Chapter Two were the gewgaws, little tokens of power. Some of these were just so imaginative that I found myself jotting down notes for such trinkets myself. A few examples are:
• A slightly scratched vinyl record that plays a 1950s jazz song in the voice of its owner (personal fav)
• A pulp magazine that changes little details in its stories when nobody’s looking. I’m just a big nerdy fan of quirk, which this book has in abundance.
Chapter Three offers two adventures (scene settings really) for players who wish to explore the market. It opens with some stats for vendors and bouncers and shoppers. It ends with two scenarios and two cheat sheets for the scenarios.
All in all, I’d say the only harm with this book is that it perhaps is too specific. A book devoted to strange shopping isn’t going to pull in many impulse buys. I think this is a shame considering the well-written end result. This book can take a night’s game down intriguing new avenues. For me, that’s a selling point.
While this is a White Wolf release, the materials inside can mostly be mined for other settings. I’d be inclined to say fantasy settings work best, but games like Shadowrun could also benefit from a little marketplace action.
My scores for Goblin Market are:
Layout: Four out of Five Dice (Keeping with theme)
Artwork: Three out of Five Dice
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (Imaginative)
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (A different pace)
Review by Todd Cash