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Move over Obsidian Portal! Just into the slow lane though, because you’re still cool, don’t completely get off the road or anything. City of Brass is just a touch cooler is all. Damn… now I’m worried I hurt Obsidian Portal’s feelings… ah, what can you do?
City of Brass is a web based application from Ember Design Studios LLC. dedicated to bringing the tools you need to the table electronically in order to run, or play, your game as efficiently as possible. Especially if you want to free up some table space by avoiding reams of paper. Those that run the game and those that play can use their City of Brass avatars to become members of their own affiliation, set in a world of their own creation (hosted on the site) if they like, to have everything they need in easy reach to get around the table and play. Early into my exploration for this review I knew some solid craft went into this product. I think you’ll not be disappointed.
One of the first things you’ll do when signing onto City of Brass will be to create an avatar, or Resident as they are called, to represent yourself within the City. This is a fluff touch that you can be as creative with as you like, or simply use as a name to work with for your future affiliations with other Residents. True to form I went as far as to craft a descriptor for “Melvin Smif” as a “Bearded Wordsmith” and even a backstory of sorts for his place in the metropolis. I like this as it already goes to making me feel like I’m affiliated with all the other users of the site. Considering group collaboration is presented as a hallmark of CoB, anything that makes you feel more associated with the group as a whole is great.
Once you’ve crafted your avatar where you go next is up to you. Though, you might find yourself checking out the forum, known as the Symposium. There you’ll chat about potential game ideas with others, read news about updates to site, hit up the FAQs or Support areas, or just gab in the general area. Your typical forum but with a layout I find easy to use. It’s an excellent resource to get a grasp on some of the current goings on of the site and tips for handling the other features. It’s also a great place to gain some affiliates.
The meat of the site lies with the ability to craft your own page to house everything you’d need for your game table, all housed under the Campaign Manager. Many of the users on the site have gone to great lengths to feature their own home-brew worlds & games but you could certainly carve out details of an established campaign setting that are relevant to your group’s adventuring. There are a number of micro sites within the larger whole used to craft everything located in your Campaign Manager. These three Builder platforms are on the site under the Toolkit drop-down and are known as the Entity Builder, the World Builder, and the Story Builder.
The Entity Builder is where you build player characters (if you’re simply playing the game), npcs, and monsters. This isn’t a pure character generator, although many choices are auto-populated, this is a place where you will need to ensure certain modifiers are entered in the correct spots based on race and class. I found it a bit fiddly but was able to work my way through. Thankfully the site provides some great tutorials in the form of YouTube videos for any of the areas you might be struggling with. The end result is a solid character sheet, npc, or monster you can incorporate into a game. Currently anything you upload is available to you alone and to others you provide the url to, stock images and characters are currently in the realm of the admins, but there are steps being taken to add a “Community Content” portion to the site.
The World Builder would be the next logical step for a GM, players tend to stick with just making a character. Here you can go into some great depth with world-craft. You can add a bevy of items here. Under the Atlas Entry you can add pictures of maps you’ve crafted and add explanations of the world they represent. Through Inhabitant you can help other explore the unique NPCs or various races that make up your populace. The choices are many, and varied. Religions & Deities, articles of Lore, various Planes of existence, etc. There are many worlds out there already that are open to public viewing, labeled as Districts in the City, and I’ve seen some really detailed worlds out there. Of course your world can be divided into public items and secret ones. There are just somethings your players don’t need to see yet.
Lastly we have the Story Builder. Once again I checked out the YouTube tutorial available on the site for this builder, though by now I’m getting the hang of everything pretty well as there’s a lot of similarities between the building engines (this is well executed). Through the Story Builder you can really craft a great adventure. Most of what you’ll do is add written content but you can pull in any stock pictures, creatures, and npcs that you might need from the website as a whole or from your own pool. Another nice feature is the Handouts portion that allows the players to see only the items placed there, blocking the rest of the adventure but allowing for them to know what they need.
After using all the builders to craft the various worlds, adventures, and entities populating the two you move things over to the Campaign Manager. Here you mash it all together into a fine working Campaign machine. You can showcase adventure logs, player characters, the world you’re operating in, etc. All the parts leading to a nicely crafted whole.
Before I scoot out, one thing I’d love to see are some character generators that are a bit better at filling in the details for you (for those systems where it’s legal to craft a character generator of course). I have to imagine things like that are in constant evolution though, and to be honest many of these systems have generators all over the net so you aren’t missing much.
I really enjoyed checking out City of Brass and I hope my words have peaked your interest. Though, if you want to know more it’s best you check it out yourself. There’s a free 30 day trial, so you can log in and tinker around. If you like what you see, sign on for another month, at only $3.00 a month, or at a discounted rate of $24.00 for an entire year. Here’s the awesome news though. Readers of my blog are getting some love from the the ruling class within the City of Brass.
I hope you head on over and try it out, I know I’ve enjoyed my time in the City of Brass. I hope you will too. Also, look me up and add me as an Affiliate! Also, if you have any further questions you could always reach out to the creators on Twitter, on Facebook, Youtube, or check out their FAQs.