- Orcs and Dwarves share a city built for the dead.
That’s the hook for Hammerfast and it’s a darn good one. Hammerfast is a 32-page adventure site supplement featuring Mike Mearls as the lead designer.
First off, major kudos to WOTC for beginning to flesh out their whole “Points of Light” world. Enormous hardcovers and boxed sets are nice…but sometimes you don’t need a seven-course meal, sometimes a light lunch is plenty. Hammerfast is a delicious and satisfying overview of a town created out of conflict and originally built as a massive graveyard full of crypts, chambers, and sepulchers. The ghosts of the past make suitably spooky appearances, orcs shuffle about side-by-side with the dwarves (thanks to a special divine compact), and the maps included are top notch. All in all, this is a terrific product at its price point of $14.95 (U.S. dollars).
My favorite parts of the supplement are the maps (the town overview and the most popular tavern are on each side of a full-color poster map) and the quest links. Mearls and company demonstrate a complete heroic-tier campaign outline complete with individual quests. This is the sort of stuff that I, as a DM, absolutely crave. I also applaud a decision that WOTC has made that I’m sure will meet with derision from other camps. The interior artwork is scarce and black-and-white. I say, “good!” I’m a huge fan of evocative and beautiful color artwork but as a DM I need content…not bells and whistles. This product delivers solid, usable ideas and some corners were obviously cut on the art budget to keep costs down. Thank you WOTC!
More good stuff includes a threat to the town- a group known as “The Circle of Stone”. They represent my favorite type of “bad guys” in that they are not clichéd, “hand-wringingly“, slaughtering evil with a capital “E“. They actually see themselves as the good guys and are more like rivals to the PCs than truly evil-doers. The Circle of Stone could best be described as “dangerously misguided” and this makes them much more interesting in a long-term campaign.
My only real negative to this whole affair is a bizarre “naming” issue. Flip quickly through the supplement and you’ll see that someone on staff was positively in love with the letter “T”. The outpost of Hammerfast features a Tathik, a Toren, a Tras, a Telg, both a Tharra and a Thora, and a Thar and a Tharn. Don’t forget Trell, Therai, Terras, and Therd! Yes, keeping track of NPCs with such amazingly similar names is going to be a headache. Maybe the editor (Torah Cottrill) is to blame for the “T” party. I’m all for internal consistency, and perhaps the letter “T” is common in the dwarven language, but… please…throw us a frickin’ bone here and help the players keep their heads from spinning. Also keep in mind, the supplement features an “Old” Gaff and another NPC also named Gaff (with no indication that they are related which mighta, sorta, kinda explained things).
As I stated earlier, the name game aside, this supplement is very good and is exactly the sort of stuff I’ve been wishing WOTC would produce for years.
- Overall rating 8.5 out of 10.