The Saving Throw
The Shackled City 10.16.2009
Saving Throw's review of The Shackled City.

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The Shackled City
published by Paizo Publishing reviewed by Martin Drury
416 pages, 2005, $59.95
Story 4
Enjoyability 3
Adaptability 4
Intelligibility 3.5
Review Scoring

   The Shackled City is the first of three serial adventures that were published in Dungeon and Dragon magazines by Paizo Publishing. It is the only one of the three to be compiled and released as a hardback mega-adventure. The adventure path itself takes up the bulk of the book, spread over twelve chapters, while an introduction and several appendices round out the content. The appendices summarize a lot of the background information on the City of Cauldron and include new monsters, feats, prestige classes, Non-Player Characters, creature statistics, tips on character creation and player handouts.

Of course, as with any adventure, the meat of The Shackled City lies in the story. For the most part, the various writers involved with the different chapters do a good job of connecting the pieces, but at a couple points the Game Master might have to fall back on that old standby, railroading, to push the players characters in the right direction. These points are luckily few, and a skilled Game Master can find ways to give hints, steering the players characters without making it feel like they are being forced.

Despite the title, and the primary setting backdrop of the city of Cauldron, players will be challenged with a variety of terrain types, from dungeons and forests to urban environments and desolate ruins. While not as mixed as some later adventure paths, The Shackled City still provides enough to keep the environment from getting stale. The city itself transforms over the course of the adventure, with some choice environmental hazards threatening the city itself during the campaign and the villains taking nefarious steps to protect their goals from interfering heroes.

At the heart of any adventure in fantasy role-playing lie the villains and other non-player characters. The Shackled City has helpful and unhelpful NPCs, creating the perfect opportunity to develop rivals and foils who are not necessarily evil. On the other hand, with numerous villains, from the lowly foot soldier to the behind the scenes mastermind, the adventure is packed full of memorable enemies that they players will come to despise and, to some degree, even fear.

While not quite as polished as some of its younger cousins, The Shackled City offers quite a bang for your gaming buck, and can frequently be found for much less than the manufacturer's recommended selling price.

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