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Castle of the Mad Archmage (Pathfinder edition) [BUNDLE]
by Trace S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/10/2017 17:59:57

We picked this up to try out. I got both hard copies and PDFs. I didn't know what to expect. This isn't a module, this is far more than an adventure or two, this is an entire multi-campaign setting where you can pick and choose what you want to use and surprises await around every corner. It's even put together in such a way that your party could step away from the area for a bit, and come back again and again for all new exciting adventures without ever repeating anything. With RPGs it's the journey and not the destination that makes it worth while, and with Castle of the Mad Archmage as your main campaign or even asa suppliment, that journey is one hell of a ride.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage (Pathfinder edition) [BUNDLE]
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Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition)
by Tracy S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/10/2017 17:53:10

We picked this up to try out. I got both hard copies and PDFs. I didn't know what to expect. This isn't a module, this is far more than an adventure or two, this is an entire multi-campaign setting where you can pick and choose what you want to use and surprises await around every corner. It's even put together in such a way that your party could step away from the area for a bit, and come back again and again for all new exciting adventures without ever repeating anything.

With RPGs it's the journey and not the destination that makes it worth while, and with Castle of the Mad Archmage as your main campaign or even asa suppliment, that journey is one hell of a ride.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition)
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Project Oasis
by James M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2017 12:57:06

Project Oasis, written by Joseph Bloch (Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage) and self-published through BRW Games, is a 36-page PDF campaign supplement for Mutant Future and Apes Victorious, both being post-apocalypse (PA) games by Goblinoid Games.

Set 1000 years after the Devastation, it is a “kitchen-sink” style setting, containing all the themes and ideas from a wide spectrum of early PA literature, film, and television, focusing on the materials developed in the 1970s. Planet of the Apes, Ark II, Omega Man, Logan’s Run, Twilight Zone, Mad Max – it’s all here in a fantastic melting pot that gives you an entire continent of possible adventure.

The two-page introductory section explains the basics of the world and how it came to be; speaks of technology and geography; and gives some basic guidelines for the kinds of campaigns the setting is designed for (very different from many modern PA settings, due to the strong influence of the middle-era of the PA genre). Details are brief, but give a game master more than enough material to get started.

We then get to the meat of the booklet, the 22-page gazetteer. This covers every major power in the PA setting, a mix of stone-age savagery to high-tech insanity. Virtually every kind of PA trope is covered in this, with lots of opportunities for a game master to start a campaign in exactly the kind of setting he wants, then move the adventure on to other regions. There are ape realms, human-friendly, human-neutral, and human-enslaving; there are high-tech mutant realms hidden under wastelands, low-tech mutant wilds, human-mutant cooperatives, and mutant-power domains; there are hidden high-tech cities of wonder where the people are dedicated to recovering what was lost, high-tech cities of wonder where the people are kept in dystopian decadence, and there are low-tech kingdoms dedicated to keeping things exactly the way they never really were in chivalrous glory. And that’s just for starters!

I’m being a bit nebulous here, as I believe that it would give you, the reader, far greater joy to discover the world of Project Oasis on your own, rather than have me list off the regions chapter and verse.

Two things I will discuss are "Project Oasis" itself and the inclusion of adventure hooks with each region. First, Project Oasis is not simply the name of the book, it is also a major faction in the PA world. Project Oasis is a very high technology organization, operating from a secret base, that seeks to bring the world back from savagery (echoes of Ark II, Earth II, and Planet Earth); to this end, they send out teams of adventuring types to help uplift goodly domains and bring down or stall villainous ones. This provides an excellent hook on which the game master can hang her campaign, as it enables player characters to travel all over the continent (and beyond) with as much technological support as the game master wishes them to have at the time. Second, each of the region entries has three adventure hooks included, at least one of which deals with Project Oasis and how it, and its representatives, might interact with the peoples and powers of the region. So the book itself, as mentioned in the introduction, really gears play toward a Project Oasis-based campaign, though myriad other options are readily available.

The volume finishes with three short appendices, two dedicated to new monsters (one for Mutant Future, the other for Apes Victorious), and the other a listing of inspirational material. The new monster sections include everything mentioned in the work that was not otherwise found in Mutant Future and/or Apes Victorious, each section covering the same monsters. The list of inspirational material provides most of the books, films, and television shows you would need to read or watch to better understand the setting. Personally, if you have no experience with the middle-era PA genre, I’d watch Ark II, the Planet of the Apes movies and television series, and the Logan’s Run movie and television series; these give you a complete overview of the relevant material and, most especially, style of the genre.

Finally, there is the continental map. Created using Hexographer, it shows the relation between the new geography of the continent and all the various regions, including cities, major towns, ruins, and other notable locations. The only problem with it is that I have not been able to find a scale for the map anywhere on the map or in the book… I think it is 30 or 40 miles per hex?

The upshot of the review is that this is the best PA campaign setting on the market today, if you are into the middle-era PA genre. If you aren’t, well, get on the bandwagon! The PA middle-genre provides you with all the action, adventure, seriousness, and wild and wacky wahoo you could ever want out of a PA setting, and this book distills it all down for you. Project Oasis plus Mutant Future and Apes Victorious can provide literally years of PA adventures. With Project Oasis Joseph Bloch has presented the PA gamer community with a PA campaign “Greyhawk Gazetteer” upon which to build and develop their own campaigns.

Project Oasis is a book I wish that I had written. And really, I can’t give it better kudos than that.

Five out of Five Stars



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Project Oasis
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Neil P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2016 18:09:29

I like this. While I don't play old school rules anymore (though I run old school campaigns) this was curious to me. It does what other OSR games do not: present something orginal instead of rewriting the same rules for the umpteenth time. Is it what Gygax would have done. Who knows, but probably not, though some seem like good guesses based on what he was writing otherwise. If you want to tun old school rules that have a different take, give it a try.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Steve K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2016 08:54:08

This is a great expansion on Gygax's AD&D. I love the additions of the mystic and mountebank specifically and incorporated them into my game.

My only real gripes are:

1) lack of a gutter for printing the pdf. A hole punch hits text. so unless you plan to stick it in a binder with plastic sheet protectors (big and bulky), you're kind of stuck with holes or using it only on your computer.

2) saving throw information being buried in the spell description. Not sure why the author didn't include it with the other data information at the start.

All in all a great product that has helped enhance my game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2015 23:48:29

Been a long time since I ran this, and I had to go back and skim through it again. You'd be surprised how much you can forget after a year or so -- especially when one has a castle & dungeon THIS large.

It's safe to say that you get a LOT of replay value! It's also safe to say that you'll get a good strong feeling of everything which worked in 1975 - without much of the ambiguity of Those Original Rules. In short, there is both meaning and madness in this setting, and each player will be rewarded for playing in character AND using player strategy. GMs will be rewarded if they study the background and extrapolate further developments - and plant many rumors.

PCs should learn of the rumors, especially, of the creator of this place. This can give them the advantage of guessing (it'll be no more than an educated guess) the meanings and motivations of the designer: the Mad Archmage. PCs should realize that madmen have reasons for what they do - even if the reasons make no sense to sane characters.

For instance, in a nod to That First Dungeon, the dungeon (and maybe the castle?) is still under construction. Signs of the construction crew's work - and maybe the crew themselves - may well hinder the players' characters.

Read the background, take plenty of light sources, and find places to sleep every night (or day) and your PCs may well finally meet that Mad Archmage. And if he makes any sense at all, I would like to hear about it.

This is a good solid adventure or series of adventures, which would easily get 5 stars. One star is deducted for not having the maps included withing the book. I have no problem with purchasing the maps separately (though I have, at other times, run games without using maps...let the PCs deal with the confusion and get lost) but it does annoy some young GMs. But they didn't live in 1975, when the gaming worlds in which we played were more dangerous and, frequently, unknown to even the gamesmaster.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book
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Publisher Reply:
In regards to the maps, they were originally included in the back of the book, but in playtesting, it was found that having to flip back and forth between the maps and the text just didn\'t work, on a practical level.
The Golden Scroll of Justice
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2015 11:47:47

Originally featured on the blog Halfling's Luck:

I'm a huge fan of Adventures Dark & Deep, published by BRW Games. It's the 2nd Edition I always wanted. So much so that,when I decided to do a major book purge, I chose to keep ADD over AD&D 2nd edition. When +Joseph Bloch announced that BRW Game was going to be releasing The Golden Scroll of Justice I was a bit disappointed. I thought to myself "Oh, great. Another Oriental Adventures-style supplement."

I'm not a huge fan of the original OA, nor am I a fan of most Asian fantasy RPGs. But that's because they're not really Asian. Instead, they're almost always a kind of pseduo-Japanese fantasy RPG. Now, don't get me wrong - that's all good and well, but I'm bored with ninjas and samurai being done over and and over again ad nauseam. Also, my personal preference was always for the more wuxia stylings of media like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or Hero. Wuxia isn't limited to foreign films. Tarantino's Kill Bill films and even John Carpenter's classic Big Trouble in Little China use the same themes and motifs in the modern day as told by western directors. Wuxia was about high adventure, mythic stories and a touch of the spiritual. Legends told with sweeping cinematography and wire-work. Legends brought to life in an exotic land. That was the Oriental Adventures I wanted, but I never quite got.

But I think the reason for that is that Wuxia films have a strong element of Chinese style and mythology to them - and this shows through in what the original Oriental Adventures both is and isn't. But what Bloch has done with The Golden Scroll of Justice is finally created a supplement that includes cleanly written, well organized rules for running Wuxia style campaigns or integrating elements of that into an existing campaign. While it's written for Adventures Dark and Deep - it can be easily adapted to fit any "Advanced" retro-clone out there.

Like Adventures Dark and Deep, The Golden Scroll of Justice doesn't give us a default setting. Instead it paints a collection of classes, races, skills, magic items, monsters and full rules for kung-fu in the themes and motifs of Chinese myth and Wuxia style in the same way that most fantasy RPGs are painted in the general theme of Euro-centric, pseudo-medieval fantasy. But there's something subtle going on in Bloch's text: The game never feels... bland. The rules and options in TGSoJ always remind you that you're in a badass time of legend and if you harness your Qi and hold to the Code of Xia, then honor and adventure await you.

The book itself is laid out in a manner exactly like Adventures Dark and Deep. Clean, crisp and concise. It's easy to read two-column format with black and white art that is thematically appropriate through out.

It begins with the introduction of two new races and one new variant on standard humans. The Shanxiao are humanoids with a fair resemblance to monkeys who live in private communities and seem to have a propensity for the more spiritual classes, while the Gouran are dog-headed and aggressive. I rather liked the Shanxiao, but found the Gouran to be a bit "thin" on their racial write-up. They seemed to offer nothing more than an attribute bonus and class restrictions, with no other racial abilities described. The third "race" listed is that of human eunuch. This is a bold choice on the part of the author and provides interesting insight into the implied society and culture of the setting.

Next up we get classes. Not a lot of time is spent adding new classes. Instead the focus is on addressing existing classes and what changes when they are put into a Mythic Chinese setting. Some classes, like the Bard are out and out removed - but most have a few small modifications. Monks are also addressed in detail, as one would expect, as are two new classes: The Wu and the Fangshi. The Wu is a kind of cleric sub-class that deals mostly with spirits and have a very earthy vibe about them. While the Fangshi are more alchemists and astrologers. At first glance, both classes seem to be simple re-skins of existing classes (cleric and magic-user, respectively), but when the reader takes a look at their spell list that's where the flavor of both Wu and Fangshi really begins to shine.

Next up is Secondary Skills and this is where GSoJ really starts to shine. Adventures Dark and Deep has a really innovative skill system and the new skills provided are just fantastic. While it might seem silly to include skills like Acupuncture, Feng Shiu, and Qigong, Bloch includes them in a way that evokes the feel of old Wuxia films in clear, simple rules that just heaps on the flavor while adding new and interesting touches to a character. This is closed with a brief touch on social class, literacy and money. Once thing that I am very pleased by is the fact that Bloch did not convert the equipment in the book to a thematic currency. Conversions are just a pain in the ass and gold pieces are an arbitrary place-holder than can easily be renamed.

The equipment section is very, very extensive and provides all manner of unique items suitable to the flavor that permeates the rest of the book. Everything from silk robes to fireworks are covered - and yes, there is a plethora of new weapons. I am pleased to announce that there is no katana listing. Bloch is really focused on Chinese themes here and keeps his attention there.

Next we come to the Kung-Fu mechanics for GSoJ. Let's face it: unarmed combat in D&D (regardless of edition), has never been stellar. What's done here is Bloch has expanded his Secondary Skill system to include different martial arts styles. Each style has three tiers that are become not only more expensive (in XP) to learn, but also more difficult to find a master who is willing or able to teach the style. At each level of skill the player is provided with one option that can be used without a skill check and another that can be used if the character succeeds in a skill check. While initially I felt this felt a bit like a "feat" system from D&D 3.X, when I read the mechanics as a whole I realized that the amount of work it would take a character to advance in more than one style was ridiculously difficult and in this, it prevented a player from having to remember a plethora of combat options. The rules seem written with the implicit belief that most characters who learn Kung-Fu will probably never learn more than one style over the lifetime of their character. In addition, Bloch's Kung-Fu rules do not limit themselves to just hand-to-hand combat. Several styles allow or even require the use of specific weapons - which is a nice change. My only problem with the Kung-Fu rules is the the absence of Drunken Monkey style. C'mon, Joe - DRUNK MONKEYS ARE AWESOME AND YOU KNOW IT.

Next we have magic. This includes a list of several pages of new spells and a basic presentation of Chinese cosmology. The new spells reflect that cosmology very well and as previously stated really strengthen the flavor of the Wu and Fangshi classes. They feel balanced as well.

A brief primer on running a Mythic Chinese themed campaign is provided. Five pages review the themes of the Wuxia genre as well as the tropes and tradition of Wuxia stories. This is a really good read for both players and referees alike as it gets to the heart of how GSoJ differs from other Asian fantasy supplements out there.

A dozen pages of new magic items are included and some of them are really cool. From the Coin Sword to the Pill of Immortality (Yes, it's exactly what you think it is... almost), these are flavorful items that, for the most part, don't feel like re-skins of magic items we saw in the original Adventures Dark and Deep core rules.

The book begins to wind down with a 25-page bestiary of monsters, most of which are taken from Chinese mythology. Included as well are seconds addressing devils, demons and of course, dragons. My personal favorite were the Long-Armed People, which is something really bizarre and unique that I'd never encountered or heard of.

The final pages of GSoJ feature three Appendices. Appendix A is a reprint of the unarmed combat rules from the Adventures Dark and Deep Player's Manual. Appendix B provides updated Armor Type vs. Weapon Type. This isn't my thing, but it's a nice touch, given the arsenal of new weapons in the book. The final (and for me, most important) Appendix features inspirational material - both books and film.

The Golden Scroll of Justice clocks in at 114 pages, but it feels bigger because there is a lot packed into these pages. The magic of this book for me is the fact that it does something that no other fantasy RPG supplement has done (in my eyes): It gave Asian classes and culture the same psuedo-historic grounding that had previously been provided to traditional European fantasy gaming. They finally feel like they came from somewhere and that grounding makes me a lot more comfortable intergrating monks and other mythic themes of the east into an existing fantasy campaign.

Could you use GSoJ to run a traditional "Oriental Adventures" type game? Sure, but you'd be wasting a lot of this book's potential. Instead, use its fully realized sense of mythology to integrate a far off culture in pieces, whispers, hints and light touches into your existing campaign so that finally the Middle Kingdom that never was can have a place in the history of your campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Golden Scroll of Justice
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Ingvar G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2015 16:37:33

I got the Hardcover version and I was not disappointed. The breadth of monster variety made me want to do adventures I had not previously considered. I will be using this book for my games for a long time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 16:56:03

Originally from my blog, Halfling's Luck: http://www.halflingsluck.com

I already have entirely too many old school and OSR fantasy RPGs: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, Swords & Wizardry Complete, OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Adventures in the Eastmark, Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, Iron Falcon, Dark Dungeons, Deeper Delving, Dungeon Crawl Classics, as well as original classics like the Rules Cyclopedia and AD&D 1st Edition premium reprints. I'm never going to play all of them - not even if I didn't have a full time job, a toddler, freelance writing and my own publishing company to juggle. So why in the Seven Hells would I buy another? Especially one that stepped away from my Basic/Expert wheel house that I love so dearly into the much less used "advanced edition" likes the aforementioned OSRIC?

Well, that's because Adventures Dark & Deep isn't quite a retro-clone. Almost, but not quite. Adventures Dark & Deep (abbreviated ADD) bills itself as being "based on Gary Gygax's plans for expanding the game." So it's claims to be a clone of neither 1st or 2nd edition AD&D. Instead it is a spiritual successor to AD&D 1st edition, with a distinctly Gygaxian design. Constructed by +Joseph Bloch from notes, articles and blog posts by Gary Gygax it claims to be written as what the author believes AD&D 2nd edition might have been if the game's original creator had not parted ways with TSR some time before the release of second edition.

The original incarnation of AD&D is direct, but grew as it became more and more popular. Initially we had no skills, and few ancillary rules beyond what was necessary to plunder dungeons and slay dragons - and it was a helluva a lot of fun. But it always felt a bit... thin. Something was missing. We got expansions in snippets and pieces through magazine articles which added to and expanded the game. Then came Unearthed Arcana, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. The game suddenly had new (often horribly imbalanced) classes and races, non-weapon proficiencies, weapon specializations, and tons of extra rules that, though they were billed as options, seemed to be taken as unbreakable canon by everyone I played with back in the day. The bloat had begun.

AD&D 2nd edition came around in 1989 and while things like proficiencies were technically optional, there seemed to be an implication that they were meant to be utilized from the ground floor. Soon after we got hugely expanded campaigns settings and the brown book series of class and race supplements. Towards there came the now infamous Player's Option series. Suddenly there were countless "options" that seemed to be anything but optional and the power creep had been ratcheted up to eleven.

ADD takes a step back, starting from the roots of AD&D 1st edition and begins an organic progression that feels right. Yes, it has barbarians, cavaliers and a skill system - but its all implemented in an even manner that feels appropriate - not as slapshot and untested as the original Unearthed Arcana options. In short, the rules feel unified and consistent. No longer is there a question of "Why should I bother to play a fighter when I can play a ranger or even a cavalier." God help the DM if someone brings the issue of Dragon magazine to the table which features the Arch-Ranger class or any other of the horribly balanced "NPC Classes."

In going beyond first edition, there comes a collection of several classes that either found their origins in Dragon magazine or other supplements - but they're included here from the get-go, which gives them both a validity and a natural sense of presence. Jesters and mountebanks didn't just appear because the latest issue hit your gamin table, they're integrated from the beginning. Because of that integration, they don't feel shoe-horned in or unbalanced. Extra classes like this give a greater sense of player option while avoiding the glut of "splat books" that many believe ruined AD&D second edition.

But more than its unification is its presentation. It holds close to the simple black and white presentation of first edition, keeping things crisp and easily presented. But Bloch doesn't rely on obtuse rule descriptons and a vocabulary rooted in High Gygaxian. He speaks clearly and directly to the reader, while not seeming boring. Because of this concise verbage, ADD packs a lot into its pages. Damn near every concievable situation is covered in Players Manual and Game Masters Tool Kit - and its done so in an approachable, easy to digest fashion.

ADD doesn't try to distract its reader with dazzling layout or full color art. The art is present and it's evocative and fitting - but it doesn't feel like its trying to steal attention away from the text. The author focuses on the game and making the most of it. The majority of the necessary rules are found in the Players Manual because players are going to need to have quick access to a variety of rules. The Game Masters Tool Kit isn't bloated by "secret rules" that players shouldn't know. Instead it talks to the reader about social encounters, unique environments, magic items, adventure design, divine pantheons and other necessary tools and rules for running the game. The Bestiary is jam-packed with almost 450 pages of adversaries and offers a few brief appendicies for unique features and designing your own creatures - not that you'd need to with the plethora of predators found in these pages.

Even while covering every nook and cranny of gaming, ADD never feels oppressed by detail. But because the game is so complete there is a subtle professional presence that breeds confidence in the reader. If someone isn't covered in these pages, a reader will be able to find a similar rule or get a sense of how they should handle a ruling in any given situation. The game breeds confidence in both player and game master. With that confidence comes a sense of excitement.

In short, Adventures Dark & Deep has replaced AD&D as my go-to "advanced edition" fantasy roleplaying game. I'm already in talks with some of my old gaming buddies to run Temple of Elemental Evil using it, and they're excited to play. Now we don't have to decide between the clean but confined rules of first edition or the bloated infinite options of second. A perfect balance is found in ADD.

Adventures Dark & Deep is available in PDF, softcover, and hardcover print on demand through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. It was written by Joseph Bloch and is published by BRW Games. There's even a bundle which includes all three hardcover books along with PDFs for around $100. A friend of mine called that a big buy in, and he's not wrong. It's a lot of faith to put in a game to blindly drop that much cash on any game - but I can say that Adventures Dark and Deep is unequivocally, bar none, the best incarnation of "advanced" fantasy roleplaying on the market - including those published by larger, more mainstream presses. I'll be running and playing it soon - and for years to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 16:55:42

Originally from my blog, Halfling's Luck: http://www.halflingsluck.com

I already have entirely too many old school and OSR fantasy RPGs: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, Swords & Wizardry Complete, OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Adventures in the Eastmark, Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, Iron Falcon, Dark Dungeons, Deeper Delving, Dungeon Crawl Classics, as well as original classics like the Rules Cyclopedia and AD&D 1st Edition premium reprints. I'm never going to play all of them - not even if I didn't have a full time job, a toddler, freelance writing and my own publishing company to juggle. So why in the Seven Hells would I buy another? Especially one that stepped away from my Basic/Expert wheel house that I love so dearly into the much less used "advanced edition" likes the aforementioned OSRIC?

Well, that's because Adventures Dark & Deep isn't quite a retro-clone. Almost, but not quite. Adventures Dark & Deep (abbreviated ADD) bills itself as being "based on Gary Gygax's plans for expanding the game." So it's claims to be a clone of neither 1st or 2nd edition AD&D. Instead it is a spiritual successor to AD&D 1st edition, with a distinctly Gygaxian design. Constructed by +Joseph Bloch from notes, articles and blog posts by Gary Gygax it claims to be written as what the author believes AD&D 2nd edition might have been if the game's original creator had not parted ways with TSR some time before the release of second edition.

The original incarnation of AD&D is direct, but grew as it became more and more popular. Initially we had no skills, and few ancillary rules beyond what was necessary to plunder dungeons and slay dragons - and it was a helluva a lot of fun. But it always felt a bit... thin. Something was missing. We got expansions in snippets and pieces through magazine articles which added to and expanded the game. Then came Unearthed Arcana, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. The game suddenly had new (often horribly imbalanced) classes and races, non-weapon proficiencies, weapon specializations, and tons of extra rules that, though they were billed as options, seemed to be taken as unbreakable canon by everyone I played with back in the day. The bloat had begun.

AD&D 2nd edition came around in 1989 and while things like proficiencies were technically optional, there seemed to be an implication that they were meant to be utilized from the ground floor. Soon after we got hugely expanded campaigns settings and the brown book series of class and race supplements. Towards there came the now infamous Player's Option series. Suddenly there were countless "options" that seemed to be anything but optional and the power creep had been ratcheted up to eleven.

ADD takes a step back, starting from the roots of AD&D 1st edition and begins an organic progression that feels right. Yes, it has barbarians, cavaliers and a skill system - but its all implemented in an even manner that feels appropriate - not as slapshot and untested as the original Unearthed Arcana options. In short, the rules feel unified and consistent. No longer is there a question of "Why should I bother to play a fighter when I can play a ranger or even a cavalier." God help the DM if someone brings the issue of Dragon magazine to the table which features the Arch-Ranger class or any other of the horribly balanced "NPC Classes."

In going beyond first edition, there comes a collection of several classes that either found their origins in Dragon magazine or other supplements - but they're included here from the get-go, which gives them both a validity and a natural sense of presence. Jesters and mountebanks didn't just appear because the latest issue hit your gamin table, they're integrated from the beginning. Because of that integration, they don't feel shoe-horned in or unbalanced. Extra classes like this give a greater sense of player option while avoiding the glut of "splat books" that many believe ruined AD&D second edition.

But more than its unification is its presentation. It holds close to the simple black and white presentation of first edition, keeping things crisp and easily presented. But Bloch doesn't rely on obtuse rule descriptons and a vocabulary rooted in High Gygaxian. He speaks clearly and directly to the reader, while not seeming boring. Because of this concise verbage, ADD packs a lot into its pages. Damn near every concievable situation is covered in Players Manual and Game Masters Tool Kit - and its done so in an approachable, easy to digest fashion.

ADD doesn't try to distract its reader with dazzling layout or full color art. The art is present and it's evocative and fitting - but it doesn't feel like its trying to steal attention away from the text. The author focuses on the game and making the most of it. The majority of the necessary rules are found in the Players Manual because players are going to need to have quick access to a variety of rules. The Game Masters Tool Kit isn't bloated by "secret rules" that players shouldn't know. Instead it talks to the reader about social encounters, unique environments, magic items, adventure design, divine pantheons and other necessary tools and rules for running the game. The Bestiary is jam-packed with almost 450 pages of adversaries and offers a few brief appendicies for unique features and designing your own creatures - not that you'd need to with the plethora of predators found in these pages.

Even while covering every nook and cranny of gaming, ADD never feels oppressed by detail. But because the game is so complete there is a subtle professional presence that breeds confidence in the reader. If someone isn't covered in these pages, a reader will be able to find a similar rule or get a sense of how they should handle a ruling in any given situation. The game breeds confidence in both player and game master. With that confidence comes a sense of excitement.

In short, Adventures Dark & Deep has replaced AD&D as my go-to "advanced edition" fantasy roleplaying game. I'm already in talks with some of my old gaming buddies to run Temple of Elemental Evil using it, and they're excited to play. Now we don't have to decide between the clean but confined rules of first edition or the bloated infinite options of second. A perfect balance is found in ADD.

Adventures Dark & Deep is available in PDF, softcover, and hardcover print on demand through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. It was written by Joseph Bloch and is published by BRW Games. There's even a bundle which includes all three hardcover books along with PDFs for around $100. A friend of mine called that a big buy in, and he's not wrong. It's a lot of faith to put in a game to blindly drop that much cash on any game - but I can say that Adventures Dark and Deep is unequivocally, bar none, the best incarnation of "advanced" fantasy roleplaying on the market - including those published by larger, more mainstream presses. I'll be running and playing it soon - and for years to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 16:55:18

Originally from my blog, Halfling's Luck: http://www.halflingsluck.com

I already have entirely too many old school and OSR fantasy RPGs: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, Swords & Wizardry Complete, OSRIC, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Adventures in the Eastmark, Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, Iron Falcon, Dark Dungeons, Deeper Delving, Dungeon Crawl Classics, as well as original classics like the Rules Cyclopedia and AD&D 1st Edition premium reprints. I'm never going to play all of them - not even if I didn't have a full time job, a toddler, freelance writing and my own publishing company to juggle. So why in the Seven Hells would I buy another? Especially one that stepped away from my Basic/Expert wheel house that I love so dearly into the much less used "advanced edition" likes the aforementioned OSRIC?

Well, that's because Adventures Dark & Deep isn't quite a retro-clone. Almost, but not quite. Adventures Dark & Deep (abbreviated ADD) bills itself as being "based on Gary Gygax's plans for expanding the game." So it's claims to be a clone of neither 1st or 2nd edition AD&D. Instead it is a spiritual successor to AD&D 1st edition, with a distinctly Gygaxian design. Constructed by +Joseph Bloch from notes, articles and blog posts by Gary Gygax it claims to be written as what the author believes AD&D 2nd edition might have been if the game's original creator had not parted ways with TSR some time before the release of second edition.

The original incarnation of AD&D is direct, but grew as it became more and more popular. Initially we had no skills, and few ancillary rules beyond what was necessary to plunder dungeons and slay dragons - and it was a helluva a lot of fun. But it always felt a bit... thin. Something was missing. We got expansions in snippets and pieces through magazine articles which added to and expanded the game. Then came Unearthed Arcana, Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide. The game suddenly had new (often horribly imbalanced) classes and races, non-weapon proficiencies, weapon specializations, and tons of extra rules that, though they were billed as options, seemed to be taken as unbreakable canon by everyone I played with back in the day. The bloat had begun.

AD&D 2nd edition came around in 1989 and while things like proficiencies were technically optional, there seemed to be an implication that they were meant to be utilized from the ground floor. Soon after we got hugely expanded campaigns settings and the brown book series of class and race supplements. Towards there came the now infamous Player's Option series. Suddenly there were countless "options" that seemed to be anything but optional and the power creep had been ratcheted up to eleven.

ADD takes a step back, starting from the roots of AD&D 1st edition and begins an organic progression that feels right. Yes, it has barbarians, cavaliers and a skill system - but its all implemented in an even manner that feels appropriate - not as slapshot and untested as the original Unearthed Arcana options. In short, the rules feel unified and consistent. No longer is there a question of "Why should I bother to play a fighter when I can play a ranger or even a cavalier." God help the DM if someone brings the issue of Dragon magazine to the table which features the Arch-Ranger class or any other of the horribly balanced "NPC Classes."

In going beyond first edition, there comes a collection of several classes that either found their origins in Dragon magazine or other supplements - but they're included here from the get-go, which gives them both a validity and a natural sense of presence. Jesters and mountebanks didn't just appear because the latest issue hit your gamin table, they're integrated from the beginning. Because of that integration, they don't feel shoe-horned in or unbalanced. Extra classes like this give a greater sense of player option while avoiding the glut of "splat books" that many believe ruined AD&D second edition.

But more than its unification is its presentation. It holds close to the simple black and white presentation of first edition, keeping things crisp and easily presented. But Bloch doesn't rely on obtuse rule descriptons and a vocabulary rooted in High Gygaxian. He speaks clearly and directly to the reader, while not seeming boring. Because of this concise verbage, ADD packs a lot into its pages. Damn near every concievable situation is covered in Players Manual and Game Masters Tool Kit - and its done so in an approachable, easy to digest fashion.

ADD doesn't try to distract its reader with dazzling layout or full color art. The art is present and it's evocative and fitting - but it doesn't feel like its trying to steal attention away from the text. The author focuses on the game and making the most of it. The majority of the necessary rules are found in the Players Manual because players are going to need to have quick access to a variety of rules. The Game Masters Tool Kit isn't bloated by "secret rules" that players shouldn't know. Instead it talks to the reader about social encounters, unique environments, magic items, adventure design, divine pantheons and other necessary tools and rules for running the game. The Bestiary is jam-packed with almost 450 pages of adversaries and offers a few brief appendicies for unique features and designing your own creatures - not that you'd need to with the plethora of predators found in these pages.

Even while covering every nook and cranny of gaming, ADD never feels oppressed by detail. But because the game is so complete there is a subtle professional presence that breeds confidence in the reader. If someone isn't covered in these pages, a reader will be able to find a similar rule or get a sense of how they should handle a ruling in any given situation. The game breeds confidence in both player and game master. With that confidence comes a sense of excitement.

In short, Adventures Dark & Deep has replaced AD&D as my go-to "advanced edition" fantasy roleplaying game. I'm already in talks with some of my old gaming buddies to run Temple of Elemental Evil using it, and they're excited to play. Now we don't have to decide between the clean but confined rules of first edition or the bloated infinite options of second. A perfect balance is found in ADD.

Adventures Dark & Deep is available in PDF, softcover, and hardcover print on demand through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. It was written by Joseph Bloch and is published by BRW Games. There's even a bundle which includes all three hardcover books along with PDFs for around $100. A friend of mine called that a big buy in, and he's not wrong. It's a lot of faith to put in a game to blindly drop that much cash on any game - but I can say that Adventures Dark and Deep is unequivocally, bar none, the best incarnation of "advanced" fantasy roleplaying on the market - including those published by larger, more mainstream presses. I'll be running and playing it soon - and for years to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Character Sheet
by Michael K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/17/2015 12:56:14

The character sheet was well laid out, with key information easy to find and enough space to enter it. The area for stats was larger than it needed to be, but the area for spells was smaller than I like, because I like to include notes about range, duration, damage, etc. Still usable to create a simple list with a few notes, by writing small. 4 stars out of 5.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Ben F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2015 22:27:11

I started off my tabletop RPG experience like many other gamers, with AD&D 1e. Since then, I have played a multitude of systems ranging from rules heavy (HERO) all the way to super rules light (PDQ), but something was always missing from my RPG experience. My gaming group has been with me for years, with me as their GM, and we have been trying for some time now to truly get the old school feeling back to our games. Then I stumbled across Adventures Dark and Deep, which perfectly recreates the feeling of 1e with a menagerie of new content such as new classes and sub-races. After character creation alone, it is apparent the similarities with AD&D 1e, and from there it is an amazing game. I absolutely love it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Dominique C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2014 02:23:21

This is truly the best OSR monster book I got so far. Everything is in there, and there is an old-school-style black and white illustration for most of the monsters. Overall it looks great, and I prefer it to the original monster books it emulates. Someday I will probably get it in print too.

I am the publisher of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. I would recommend this monster book to those who use my game and want to know which monsters to use. They would fit very well. I intend to later publish a monster book of my own, but this one will still nicely complete what I intend to do.

There is one thing I don't like though: you need Acrobat Reader 10 to read it. With version 9 and below it simply doesn't open at all. My opinion is that a PDF file bought on RPGnow should be readable with most older versions of Acrobat Reader. I don't see why you should have the latest technology to read files. There should be no obligation to upgrade your computers (I can read it on my PC, but I cannot have Acrobat Reader 10 on my old macintosh) to be able to read the file purchased here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/18/2013 12:20:27

Originally posted at: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-dark-and-deep-bestiary.html

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard. While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise. Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before. Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters. This is still a great book. At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions. Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are: Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books. Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters. Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes. Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago.. Appendix D is magic resistance table and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early. You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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