Vornheim, a Pay What You Want product at DriveThruRPG, to review this week and in many ways I was disappointed with this download. The three-star rating belies my overall impression because while in many ways I don't like it, there is some good stuff in this product and I think a lot of GMs can take something worthwhile away from it.
First off, the formatting/layout of this thing is horrendous. Huge black borders with funky white text, odd drawings and almost confusing haphazard maps make this a bit unpleasant to read. No way in hell would I bother to print this whole thing out on my printer. It is obvious that this was simply a PDF version of a printed product that was not optimized for use on a tablet or printing at home. I have to give credit for a consistent art style, plenty of PDF bookmarks, and no annoying PDF lock-downs. That alone is worth a star in my book.
The author is quite up-front about not giving the reader/GM a perfectly laid out city supplement and instead giving a series of elements that allow the user to expand/contract the city quickly and easily. There are a ton of interesting ideas scattered throughout the book, some great and some.....well I'm still scratching my head. Again though I have to give the author some credit because there are some ideas that I definitely don't like and will never use, like off-the-cuff item pricing based off of how many syllables are in the name of the item, but some are simple and pure genius. Others I just don't get, but the next guy might be completely inspired by them.
Probably my favorite new idea, one that doesn't really work with a PDF, is something so simple yet so foreign that I never would have considered it. When using one of the many random tables in the book the author advises, "Once a result has been used, cross it off and write in your own." I've written plenty of random tables and it has never once occurred to me to simplify things by editing tables as I use them. Wow....talk about a paradigm shift.
Vornheim is pretty much unusable as a city location. I would not say it was a "complete city kit". There is just too much strangeness to it that goes off the deep end, but there is plenty of tidbits here and there that I could extract and tie into something else. Even some of the "unusable" bits for me are definitely worth a read if only to see a completely different point of view, like some of the mapping ideas.
I'll probably have to read & re-read some of this a few more times just to get my head wrapped around it.