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Megadungeon Monster Manual
by Vampire R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/12/2023 19:04:58

These monsters are amazing and a must-have book for anyone, esoecially anyone running any of Greg Gillespie's Mega-Dungeon books like Barrowmaze, Highfell, Forbidden Caverns of Archai, and Dwarrowdeep



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Megadungeon Monster Manual
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Dwarrowdeep OSR
by Dominic M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2022 22:05:50

BLUF*: Some good bones and great art, but unworkable in its current state.

Previous reviews of Greg Gillespie's other megadungeons inspired me to join in on the Kickstarter for this one, and I was interested to have a really huge site for a future game. Unfortunately, while DD is a huge site with hundreds of keyed locations, it's also a very dull site for gaming.

Basically, DD suffers from a lack of novelty and motivation. There are factions, but few with any strong bearing on PCs' actions, and no discernable way to involve them in intrigue. While there are hundreds of rooms (maybe thousands? I didn't count), they're mostly undescribed besides antagonists and loot. there are even a few pages of Dwarf Lore, but literally nothing you haven't heard of before (even the whole thing of female dwarfs making up only 1/3 of the population was there in 1984's Moria by ICE). It's all just very bland.

If you were actually intending to run a campaign in DD for a group of adults, you'd need to do a fair bit of homework to fill in the blanks, and you'd probably end up making it more of a pointcrawl. I could go on, but thankfully the blog "Bones of Contention" already did a very thorough job of explaining DD's faults as well as offering reasons for its failure:

https://bonesofcontention.blogspot.com/2022/08/spectral-interrogatories-iv-dwarrowdeep.html

[In case you care, for a university professor, Mr Gillespie's English is also surprisingly sloppy. For example, using "persay" instead of per se on p59.]

It's obvious that a great deal of work has gone into writing DD, but I suspect that the author's own creative blinkers might go some way to explaining its failure as an adventure aid. In one of the KS updates he stated:

"*If you enjoy an adventure steeped in the history and lore of the game, medieval fantasy, dwarves, and Anglo-Saxon history - and devoid of woke nonsense - this will be right up your alley."

Now I happen to be a fan of all of the above, including 'woke nonsense', and this unnecessary trolling of his own backers dismayed plenty of them, and some cancelled their pledges. I didn't, but it made me alert to how Mr Gillespie might present women in his world. Long story short, it's not especially offensive, but similar to an early 80s D&D aesthetic where looks substitute for personality (p88, "Lithuniel was once acknowledged as one of the most beautiful among her kind, but the orcs burned her with fire", p200 "Luvenin is a strong but slender half-elf woman"), and female protagonists are definitely in the minority. The pregen PC-group includes only one female character, Selena the Sorceress, and you'd better believe that she is going to wear a titillating slit-dress in any major illustration. (If you're a fan of fantasy cheesecake there unfortunately isn't enough of it to count as a plus.) This sort of old-fashioned writing/layout is something you can just roll your eyes over and ignore, or it might make you want to spend your money elsewhere.

I gather from what I read online that some gamers of my own (i.e. old) vintage are really interested in an old-fashioned kind of gaming experience, and DD is self-evidently aimed at them. Some are even quite vocal about women really not belonging as regular protagonsts in a "medieval fantasy" setting, and for them the OSR should be about a return to 70s/80s-style RPGs. I clearly don't agree with that, but it's not important. Even a GM looking for a good-old-fashioned dungeoncrawler is going to find the sheer monotony of this setting necessitates tons of refitting to enable it to work for any regular gaming group. It's a shame that the author hasn't learnt from the many electrifying OSR adventures that have come out over the last ten years or so, especially with all of the labor that has been put into this one. I would actually love to see a second edition that resolves many of this one's problems, but I doubt it would ever happen.

OSR adventuring can be about more than near-endless square grids and stale stereotypes, and if you prefer to think that OSR stands for Old School Renaissance, not Revival, then Dwarrowdeep is probably not for you. But if you don't mind putting in a fair bit of work then it is not at all terrible, and with the right kind of revision it could be an excellent megadungeon.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dwarrowdeep OSR
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Creator Reply:
Clearly, this “review” is about about grinding an axe and not about gaming. Thank you for revealing yourself. I encourage you to go play games full of woke nonsense.
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Dwarrowdeep OSR
by Daniel B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2022 23:09:47
This is a crowning achievement. Barrowmaze was a great run and I now put it in every campaign I run as an option for my players. DwarrowDeep is well detailed and once inside Gundgathol opens with a massive exploration campaign. The main areas are absolutely massive and offer months and months of adventures, searching behind every door. The lore is heavily detailed and outline and can easily be added to any world campaign, but I like Gillespie's nods to Conan and other fantasy works. Finally, there is a great section on creating dungeons and in between spaces with little prep. Gillespie has allowed played the pleasure to add their own dungeons to the mix and I think this is a great add. The art is worth the price of this book. Coming from old TSR alumni and great new artists this book is simply a marvel to look through. The later ongoing illustrations of adventures meeting thing on the page was an especially nice touch. The maps are top notch, and I would love for more digital maps of VTT. Overall, the book has great lore and the Dwarven homeland feels complete and all their own. This really harkens to OSR heydays of massive dungeons and great surprising foes, don’t forget your ten foot pole!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Dwarrowdeep OSR
by Oliver R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/19/2022 17:20:25

All,

This module is a masterpiece. Do not be put off by the term megadungeon. It is usuable without having read the 336 A4 pages in advance.

I have been playing RPGs for 30 years and used/played about 100 published RPG modules. I almost always end up making material modifications to make them work (removing circus style different monsters and gonzo silliness that undermines dark ambience, cleaning up random 'no purpose' NPCs to motives/character etc).

This module was able to bolted on directly with internally consistent dwarf themed structures, monsters, maps, NPCs and backstory. I used everything.

Normally I shy away from massive maps. They tend to use up precious brain RAM that is better used to prepare for actual play/story/PCs. The rooms usually end up repetitive/pointless and all merging into a blob in my mind. Dwarrowdeep is the opposite. Each map is standalone and consistently themed, each room entry is succinct and unique. One read over an entry and then I just glance at it in game and we are on.

In an unexpected twist, the vastness of DwarrowsDeep has added to the wonder of explanation as PCs map on Graph Paper is starting to fill the table area. Going deeper and deeper...

Few modules achieve this standard.

Oliver



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Barrowmaze Complete 10th Anniversary (Monochrome Cover)
by Michael K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/22/2022 16:41:53

This is an excellent book to run as a stand alone adventure or as a resource dungeon/module. It contains so much in terms of setting and NPCs. Ive been DMing an AD&D game for six years with the same group and had been running out of material, my own anf barious classic AD&D modules. I came across Barrowmaze and adapted it to my story with a few changes so that it would work well with our campaign.   The tablet of Chaos provides such a great story line. I recommend this megamodule/dungeon on its own or if you need a lot of new material to weave into your party's campaign. This books provodes quite a lot as far as maps, the actual catacombs, new monsters and storylines. i appreciate the hard work of the author in his attention to details and originality. Totally with the purchase price. Keep rolling the die!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 10th Anniversary (Monochrome Cover)
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Barrowmaze Complete 5E 10th Anniversary Special Edition
by Robert T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2022 14:47:58

I absolutely LOVE this Megadungeon. This is EXACTLY the kind of module I want to run, and play.

Well done sir.

The book is AMAZING quality, this is SO WORTH THE MONEY.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5E 10th Anniversary Special Edition
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Barrowmaze Complete 5E 10th Anniversary Special Edition
by Harry [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2022 18:11:14

I received my physical book today and am very happy with the quality. It looks great with the throwback cover, and the color stands out of the shelf. So far I've gotten to run two sessions of Barrowmaze for my playgroup, and they are enjoying it very much. It really captures the OSR DnD feel. Eager to run more.

The layout is good and generally makes it easy to run (not always the case with megadungeons.) My only gripe is that the PDF isn't bookmarked, but I can live with that. 5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Barrowmaze Complete
by J H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/05/2021 04:48:39

So I ran this, and for the authentic experience with the Labyrinth Lord rules. (I'll give my opinion on that here, I think after running a lot of it Labyrinth Lord has lost a large amount of the appeal for me, the book is hard to look things up in (monster saving throws) and has some rules quirks that are difficult. If I were to play this again or another of Greg's dungeons I'd be using a slightly more modern OSR ruleset). This campaign took 51 character deaths. About 35 sessions (I think). Lots of dungeon crawling.

I used my Print on Demand book almost exclusively. I will say that I found the paper selected for this print on demand book lacking, it is quite thin and flimsy. Its not the more thicker paper I'm used to. Which for a $70 title I was expecting better. Honestly I would consider printing my own copy + binding it locally as my usual paper feels thicker. I'm guessing this is 60gsm in the book.
The artwork is in the old school black and white style, and as per this old school has a number of pictures to show players. All are good, some include details the players will find helpful if they pick up on.

This is a large dungeon. Over 400 rooms. It is very undead heavy. So undead heavy the rules specifically include house rules for gimping, sorry, adjusting, a clerics turn dead ability. Because otherwise it is Over Powered as all heck. I know this as I missed these rules for our first few sessions. The dungeon is written in a relatively minimalist way. This coupled with the large number of undead could make it boring. As a GM I strongly recommend keeping a list of things undead skeletons/zombies could be doing and using those. Also whilst there is a list of dungeon paraphernalia/wall writing it is only 40 items long (2 tables of 20) and you'll burn through that rather quickly. So create more. There are some more set piece style combats, and some wicked and clever traps, and equally a number of rooms of "4 zombies".

This is designed as an old school dungeon in that time is highly important. There are wandering monsters (which as players level up do get less and less dangerous) but also a number of rooms have funerary urns which take quite some time to search. If running this again I'd use a box of grid paper to track time. I wouldn't worry about the encumbrance rules as the dungeon is accessible enough three days of weary slogging to get the loot back to town is fine.

Speaking of loot there is a lot of magic items and weapons. So many your players will want to sell them. I went for the Pathfinder prices and this turned out to be too high. I'd suggest a flat rate of 2k per every +1.

Plot - the plot here is okay. There is a not-quite-dead god of Death and an artifact that could bring him back to life. Or undeath. Or something.
The best thing about the plot is how discoverable it is. This is due to clay tablets scattered across the place that drop hints of the plot, and some factions of living dead gods who will also provide hints. And then the plot comes out in an organic way, which is infinitely better than an excellent plot being dolled out in a dreadful sloppy way.

Maps that were clear and easy to read. There are two 'levels' for want of a better word. There are the Barrowmounds, a hex crawl with a number of different mounds. (I do have a minor complaint that this hex map is for a GM eyes only, and whilst a player facing copy is easy to whip up, you definitely need to). Some of these mounds are short dungeons, others lead to the mega dungeon complex. My only complaint is that when looking at the stairs up from the lower dungeon, its not always possible to tell from the lower level description which upper level mound the stairs lead to. It did take my players a long time to realise the large lower dungeons were all connected. Keep this a surprise.

Ease of use at the table was high, I'd have several bookmarks, one for the map pages, another for the dungeon text around the area the players were in, and sometimes a fourth at a particular monster page. It took me longer to find things in the Labyrinth Lord rulebook than it did to flick through here. I wasn't scanning long lines of text trying to parse information. I deliberately ran this with minimal prep. I'd do dungeon restocking rolls, and some prep work for things undead could be doing, and sometimes skim a large area of a dungeon before play. But I deliberately wanted to see how this would run with low prep - and the answer is very very well.

My conclusion is this: If you want a large megadungeon that is feasible to actually complete, that doesn't clutter your head with unnecessary backstory, and will have a story that will organically become developed this is a really good option. There is a lack of negotiable factions (see - lots of undead) and there is some work you'll have to do as a GM, but not as much as other campaigns. The biggest negative was the paper type used in this POD book. I felt as a GM this dragged slightly towards the end, but not enough I was beginning to hate running it. If you want an experience of old school dungeon delving this is probably the best option I've seen.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
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HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
by Katherine Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2021 13:57:57

I am a fifth year university student that is studying in game design, taking an RPG history class for this year. The professor for that class is none other than Greg Gillispie himself. I had to buy and review this book for a book review. Overall, after reading over the book, you have to be an completely tasteless "roll player" to enjoy this. This is a Monty Haul book. Meaning, this book is designed for optimal treasure hunting and very little role playing. Charisma Build fan? Definitely stay out. This campaign scorns on Charisma builds, and you have to be a Dexerity fan to enjoy... this.

I realize that it's probably best to leave this review so that the future unfornunate students and future buyers stay away from this book at all costs. There are better and free ones in this site. Just don't buy this one, as it is absolutely bloated with fluff. There's a reason why you can't see a preview of it, because the writing in there is so dry and so mediocre, that it would absolutely spoil your fun buying it.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Tdt7zL5DGuUSXGozz3G6TSVso9NmkmiGdD-qI_Rmc04/edit?usp=sharing

Here's my full review on Highfell. Barrowmaze isn't that much different in terms of gameplay, location, and writing style.

Gillispie himself has read this review, and absolutely cannot understand my arguments or my review at all. He gave me a 20/40, claiming that my writing is nearly impossible to understand for him. He also thinks that low fantasy is Han Solo being morally ambigous and insists that Highfell is low fantasy when it's clearly a high fantasy book. I am not making this up. I have attended his lectures myself.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
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Barrowmaze Complete 5E 10th Anniversary Special Edition
by David Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/26/2021 16:36:21

I don't feel like I need to write much here. Basically it's as good as the awards and bazillion YouTube reviews say. 100% worth the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5E 10th Anniversary Special Edition
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Barrowmaze I
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/22/2021 18:07:51

Very good megadungeon. Room descritions are minimalistic, so you will need to spice them up with some improv to keep things interesting. Otherwise, it'll just be, ok, another room with skeletons, roll initiative. But as a template, as "bones" for you to flesh out, it's very good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
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Barrowmaze Complete
by Todd M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2021 13:58:18

This is really good. Its not perfect, but its well worth your time and money if you want to play an OSR style exploration game. There is tons of content here you can chop it up or use it as a complete campaign. The art is good, the content is fun. There is enough detail here to run things out the box but not so much you can't jam on it in game. No long winded exposition or history of the 9 realms here, you will be up to your neck in skeletons right away. Lots of tables and charts and solid advice for reusability. I bought a ton of RPG modules over the years and 90% do not get the use that this one had gotten and I have only scratched the surface on it.

Super example of the genre.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
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Barrowmaze Complete
by Chris N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2020 15:18:04

Perahaps the best Mega Dungeon on the market. One large flat layer. Well though out. Easy to dive in. The room descriptions are brief but not repetitive. I recommend for anyone looking to do a serious megadungeon.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Barrowmaze Complete
by Benjamin W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2020 20:35:34

Pretty decent megadungeon but the cons outweigh the pros for me. The biggest gripes I have are: -Having a megadungeon almost entirely populated with undead removes a lot of morale checks from the game which is one of my favorite parts of old school gaming. Enemies who are always hostile and fight to the death are fun from time to time, but a megadungeon full of them? Less fun. -The cost is ridiculous! Sure there's some good art, but for a medium sized book this is WAAAAYYY overpriced, especially compared to similar products. -The author for some reason refuses to figure out how to get previews of his books on drivethru because... reasons? -Finally, from reading the author's responses to criticism, complaints, or really anything that doesn't paint his work as genius, I REALLY regret having given him any of my money and I certainly won't in the future. It seems he is the sort of "artist" who thinks if you have any issue with his work then you simply don't get it. The words pompous and smug ring in my head everytime i see his responses or interviews. One of my pet peeves in creators, especially in smaller scenes. Your mileage may vary.

--EDIT: Please see his response to my review as evidence. Rather sad. Score updated from 2 to 1 stars for extreme pettiness of creator.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Creator Reply:
Everyone is welcome to an opinion. You’re right, you don’t get it lol
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Barrowmaze Complete
by Go B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2020 22:59:07

The content of the Barrowmaze Complete is solid. Good writing, dense background, many good ideas that drive forward a plot. Lots of choice and very little railroading. I really like it.

In other words: no real issues with content. If you are buying the PDF of this then you are fine. Read no further.

But if you are like me, and want things on paper and on a shelf, to browse, and sit, and flick through, this is another matter.

This is a costly book to pruchase. One can see why. A lot of work went into writing, design, graphic layout, artwork. This is a beautiful book. Which is why it is an extra great pity that production is so relatively poor. My book came with an improper binding. I have taught myself to bind books, so I think I know what went wrong. The glue was sloppy and the binding was not allowed to sit and cure for long. As it dried up, it contracted and pulled the binding askew.

No problem: I wrote DTRPG, and a replacement was sent -- no fuss. Absolutely perfect customer service. I love shopping with DTRPG.

But now, as I am waiting for the replacement to come, the other copy sits on my shelf. And over the last three weeks, the paper has begun to take moisture from the air. The paper is of a very thin quality, probably 60g, and it has begun to bend and wave. A book like this, especially at a price like this, should be printed on proper paper. The replacement has not yet arrived, but I have no doubt that the same will happen to it.

I do not have a particualrly moist home. I have a DysonAir that tracks humidity, and I see it always fluctuates around 30-40% and never goes above that. A book - any book - should be able to handle that.

Yet, my copy of Barrowmaze Complete now looks as if I spilled a glass of water onto it. I have put it in a press to see what will happen, but for something that costs $110, this should really not be necessary.

Whoever produces these books, printing them on demand, they need to be paid properly, and, in turn, they need to use proper materials and take the time necesaary to produce a product that can last and wont bend and skew.

My 1979 AD&D books still look fantastic after four decades. Barrowmaze Complete emulates their design. It should also emulate their production quality.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Creator Reply:
I’m not TSR and have never made a claim to be so. Compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges.
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