In which our intrepid hero finally completes a six-month labour.

In mid- to late October, I’d picked up Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire and it’s been on my Currently reading list ever since—until today.

I’d been reading Monte Cook’s blog for months, drooling at every mention of Ptolus. In fact, I’d sort of anticipated it a couple of years in advance; after reading The Banewarrens, I’d picked up every 3rd-ed D&D adventure by Monte Cook I could find, detecting subtle hints of a huge campaign underlying them all. As soon as the news was out, I wanted this book.

I was surprised how quickly it reached Australia; by the time I asked my FLGS about it, they already had a couple of preorder boxes in, one in their city store and the other out at Penrith, nearly 60km away.

They let me sneak a peek at the box and its contents. I was hooked. By the time I could gather the $AUD220, however, the box in the city store was sold—and they weren’t planning to import any more. Especially given its price, Ptolus was a niche item, and they weren’t sure how many they could sell.

Needless to say, I put my name down for the copy in Penrith. The “Phonebook”—as one of the guys at my FLGS dubbed it—would be mine.

It took a few weeks to get to my FLGS. Whilst Ptolus made its way into the city, the guy driving it over was in a serious car crash. One of the staff fished it and other stock out of the car’s remains and brought my copy of Ptolus into the city store—and fell badly, wrenching his knee in the process. My Phonebook gained a reputation as being cursed.

Nonetheless, I picked it up safely and it’s been clear sailing ever since.

“Phonebook” is an apt moniker. At nearly 700 pages, plus a CD-ROM with electronic copies of Banewarrens, Chaositech and Night of Dissolution (which also came in hardcopy with the box I bought)—and various other extras—Ptolus is huge. It literally is the size of a phonebook.

And therein lies one of its problems, the reason why it’s taken over six months to read the thing. I spend about two-and-a-half hours a day on the train, and can usually power through books relatively quickly, but Ptolus is simply too big to be portable.

Since I bought the Phonebook, my grandmother died, I’ve gotten myself a girlfriend (who’s since moved in) and I’ve had an election to worry about, all of which have curtailed my “me” time dramatically. Hence the delay in finishing Ptolus.

Don’t get me wrong, Ptolus is awesome, the final magnum opus and labour of love of one of the acknowledged masters of the roleplaying world. But Freeport: City of Adventure (for example) was pretty damn cool, too—but with a fraction of the pagecount.

On the other hand, I doubt that a lesser pagecount could’ve done the subject true justice, nor would I have bought in if I’d had to purchase multiple chunks.

Ptolus is an awesome read for any GM, but its sheer size precludes its use as a mere sourcebook. Although groundbreaking in its ease of use, it’s simply too big to carry around to steal bits out of for your own campaign. It may be the largest single roleplaying product ever released—and one of the best—but it’s an all-or-nothing affair.

I’m happy—nay, proud—to set aside a two-inch wide slot on my shelves for the Phonebook, but unless I’m actually lucky enough to run a Ptolus campaign myself, I don’t know that I could justify lugging it around, simply to use bits of the cool stuff therein.