Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: And A 10-Foot Pole

Today, I'm reviewing an Iron Crown product that can truly lay claim to being system-generic. The book ...and A 10-Foot Pole remains one of my favorite RPG supplements, regardless of the RPG system I'm utilizing.

10-Foot Pole is an equipment supplement, purporting to be "the ultimate equipment sourcebook". In just under 190 pages, 10-Foot Pole presents prices and equipment lists for over a dozen historical eras. (For reference, the eras listed are as follows: Stone Age, Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age/Age of Empire, The Middle Ages, Renaissance, Age of Reason, Industrial Revolution, Steam Age, Electric Age, Atomic Age, and the Information Age).

In terms of currency, 10-Foot Pole switches from the gold piece standard to U.S. dollar ($) for the Age of Steam onward. For the GM still wanting to use the GP standard, it would have been nice for some clear conversion standards, especially considering the influx of steampunk influence into the RPG hobby.

After a brief section on an economics system, the book dedicates a chapter for each of the eras. Each era has an 1-2 page introduction on the historical trade and economic factors of the era, which helps a bit in explaining prices.

What follows the introduction is a very impressive price listing of not everything under the sun, but not far from it, either. For example, if I'm in a Bronze Age setting and I need an Adze, I'd better be ready to shell out 25 copper pieces. I'll also know it weighs about 2 pounds, is widely available, and will take about a day to make. This is the sort of information present on any entry. I really appreciate the details such as notes, craft times, and measurements, which all help a GM fake like he knows what he's talking about.

It's not just tools or weapons that are covered, either. Daily items, food, travel arrangements, lodging, clothing, outdoor survival, alchemical materials, scholarly materials, livestock, and many more categories all have considerable entries. The scope of this book is very impressive.

Of course, an entire historical era is pretty vague, and depending on economic or trade conditions, prices can change. But 10-Foot Pole is a great starting spot. It's very easy as a GM to mess up on pricing and either gouge players or be inconsistent with pricing. It's also easy to get caught on the spot by a player request and not know even where to start with pricing. This book can alleviate this issue.

If I were to add anything else to 10-Foot Pole, it would be a few more illustrations for the less common items. The notes do a good job with some description where needed, but a few more illustrations wouldn't hurt.

Despite this, I can wholeheartedly recommend ...and a 10-Foot Pole to any GM looking for a equipment supplement that can come with them as they go from system to system. For $25 (or less) for the print version, this is a good bargain when you consider it won't become obsolete just because want to try a new set of rules.

Because at some point, they will want bagpipes.


Bonemaster said...

"And a 10-Foot Pole" is one of favorite items as well. I don't think I've used it that much.

The biggest issue I've had with it, is just that it's hard to come up price conversions for various system. You kind of have to use it as a relative pricing guide when doing conversions.

Still, it's fun to read through.

Zachary The First said...

Yeah, I usually try to pin down some manner of exchange rate beforehand, or use their pricing. Great point to start from, though!

Rob Lang said...

Any blog with "And at some point they will want bagpipes" in it wins my vote!

Great review, sir.

Zachary The First said...

Thanks, Rob!

I have found that two things will eventually be requested in any game I run: bagpipes and a viking helmet.

jaerdaph said...

And a 10-Foot Pole is a great resource and I still pull it out and use it all the time. It's a classic! The real irony is, I've never played Rolemaster and the only Iron Crown product I own is another gem, Nightmares of Mine, a guide to all things horror roleplaying by Kenneth Hite.

Definitely one of those books that should be on every GM's bookshelf.