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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by John [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2024 14:07:12

A truly mind-boggling achievement. Yes, there are formatting choices that could be improved. Yes, this would benefit dramatically from hyperlinking the pdf. Yes, the writing could be tighter and better organized. BUT: this absolutely delivers as a playable, surprising, inspired, and gargantuan megadungeon. I have been using it to run a solo campaign over the past two years and it works particularly well for that purpose (since all the things that make it unwieldy for a GM provide surprises for the soloist). The price point is intimidating, but it is worthy of the sheer dedication and labor this must have taken to produce. I expect that solo campaign to last for years to come (as I've barely made a dent in the factional rivalries in the dungeon). So much to play with here - the only real limiting factor is the time commitment to run it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by Robert [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/17/2024 10:25:19

While the amount of information provided is enormous, I have found that Richard Barton and the team at Expeditious Retreat Press have done a great job of keeping it all flowing together. With some hyperlinks in the PDF, you can bounce around pretty seamlessly. I love all of the factions and potential routes which adventuring parties can go within the Halls, destroyed city, and even Burdock's Valley. I could play this material for the rest of my life and be satisfied! Thank you!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2024 23:57:36

My favorite megadungeon.

Is it the easiest thing to run? No. If this is your first megadungeon I'm not sure this is the right product for you. But if you are looking for a dense, concentrated, self-consistent dungeon with densely historical verisimilitude then you're gonna have a good time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by Michael [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2024 14:20:39

TLDR: Yes, get the book. It's worth the time and the money. It overcomes its flaws, which only exist because the creators did this in their spare time and not as a profession. And watch 3d6 Down the Line to get a better look at this campaign in action.

This review contains no spoilers.

The difficult part of writing a review for Arden Vul is that in order to do so, I'd have to write an entire essay that nobody really has time for (EDIT: lol, looks like I did anyway). I'll do my best to keep this as short as possible (EDIT: didn't happen) and will also include a TLDR at the bottom (my review is so long, you'll find the TLDR at the top instead). I'd also like to recommend the podcast 3D6 Down the Line, you can find them on spotify and YouTube. There is no better way to demo this book than to listen/watch 3D6-DTL play this megadungeon. They've been running Arden Vul for over a year, which is plenty of material to help you make a judgement call. Listening to 3D6-DTL will give you a better understanding of this module than I ever can.

Arden Vul is advertised as a megadungeon, but it's much more than that. It includes a fairly detailed setting, a beastiary, several magic items, random generation tables for side adventures, a list of quest/campagin/quest objectives, a massive list of books the players will find in the dungeon (including the contents of the books, what language they're in, their dimensions... hell he even includes how these books look!), lore for the world, lore about the gods of this module, a detailed time line of events that got the dungeon to the state it's in now, callbacks to very famous DnD adventures, and suggestions for further expansion. It was developed as a passion project. This is both a good and bad thing: the good is that this module was created with love and includes everything you might want for a setting/dungeon in an old school revival adventure; the bad is that the authors are human and had their own lives while creating this work, so a few minor gripes and issues flew uner the radar that make this module difficult to run. The takeaway however is that this is one incredibly fun megadungeon, a campaign setting, and eco-system supporting it.

This dungeon, and I cannot stress this enough, is massive. If you are a completionist who needs to analyze every room, every possibility, every item... you will never finish. It's BIG. One of the hardest decisions a group will face is whether or not to progress down to a new level of a dungeon, enter a newly found entrance, or bypass entire sections of the floor you know exist because you want to find out what's further and further down. The creators strived to create an experience so vast that no two campaigns will ever be the same. I believe they truly succeeded in this.

Outside the dungeon, you have a couple of safe havens that are accessible to players. The main outpost, Gosterwick, has a lot of potential information for referees/GMs/DMs to use for their tables but are not obligated to do so. An example of this: one of the inns harbors a spy from a far-off city that wants information about Gosterwick. This spy is from the capital of the region, Archontos, with its own politics and culture. There are surface level details about who his employer is, what Archontos is like, and the goals of its leaders, but because the module mainly focuses on the mega-dungeon it will be up to the referee to nurture this into something usable. This 1000+ page module is filled to the brim with potential ideas like this.

The dungeon itself is hazardous, which is extremely so for a party of first level adventurers. Traps and monsters are outright deadly. It may even be of some benefit to get the average party level to 2 or 3 before starting this, but you definitely can do it with a party of level 1 adventurers. My own personal group went from level 1 all the way to level 10 with no shortage of things to do or explore. Even at level 10, my party got into a situation that nearly wiped them out. One of the PCs lost an arm and the player decided to retire the character. This player was also excited to begin a new level 1 adventurer, even though they were in a group of level 10s, because Arden Vul provides so many chances to earn XP and treasure for quick leveling after a certain point. Death is not the end in this module, it's only an obstacle to be overcome. However, this also means that it becomes crucial to break out of conventional playing styles; sometimes it's just not smart to hit something with your sword until it falls down. You really need to be the type of player that considers potential combat as a puzzle. Referees will need to give the players opportunities to employ strategies/ideas outside of combat for them to be successful.

The dungeon is meant to be explored with the rules of supply management in mind. The number of torches you bring, the time it takes to go down the hallway, your food and water supply, and what other equipment you bring all add to the tension of the adventure. You can certainly ignore these rules if you desire, but the threat of always needing a secure way out diminishes. This is part of the fun of OSR, so I'd highly recommend including the exploration rules for your table. The system was designed for OSRIC, which makes it compatible with many OSR systems. I decided to use Old School Essentials and it by-and-large worked well. There were a few glitches along the way that became a pain to work through, however. When enemies are encountered, stat blocks are given in the text and include everything you need to run the battle on the fly (you can also refer to the bestiary in the back of the book for more info if needed). Since I was running OSE, I needed to have the Referee's tome constantly open to the back page that had HD to THAC0 and saving throw conversions. It became tough to manage fights using multiple sources and, in some cases I believe, trivialized a few fights. OSRIC I believe uses higher values for combat than OSE. If my party ran into, say, a gargoyle, and I decided to use the OSE statblock for the fight, the PCs tended to have an easier time. This became more apparent as PCs found magic items to equip. Which actually leads me into my next point:

Arden Vul sometimes makes a reference to items and spells that are difficult to find. A simple example is the first time the spell "Strength" was mentioned in my game. It's a standard spell in OSRIC but not in OSE. I quickly noticed that the OSRIC ruleset has required casting times (called segments) but OSE largely does not. As mentioned above, OSRIC tends to use higher numbers in its system, so in my game, if a player used "Strength" as a spell they got huge bonuses instantly. This was also true for enemies however, and it made the lives of my players more difficult than needed. I often had to decide whether or not to play this scenario out as intended by the module creators or follow an OSE rule with an OSRIC spell. More often than not, I wasn't sure if I was making the right call. This is also applicable for items, magic items, and equipment. As a referee, you'll need to make several decisions like this on the fly because it's impossible to fully predict what path your group is going to take. This in turn will make preparing fights for the session more difficult. The important thing however is that none of these calls ever broke my game; it just meant I needed an energy drink after hour 2 or 3 in a session.

The module is easier to use as PDFs and not as physical books. The physical books, should you decide to purchase them, might be easier to use as downtime reading material. But at the table it might be better to use a computer to help you navigate for needed information. Even as a PDF, this thing is difficult to navigate. There are bookmarks in the PDF, so you can easily navigate to certain sections of the text, but none of the text itself is highlighted or linked to pages. This is something you might want to consider adding yourself as a DM in any relevant areas your PCs are exploring. One of the frustrating aspects of this is how tedious it can be to seek certain information. Here is an example that I hope illustrates my experience:

A given room might have enemy stat info and treasure. Using OSE, I need to convert the HD info of these enemies into THAC0 and Saving Throws. Then, if these enemies are important (say a leader of a faction, a lieutenant, or something like that), they may have more information in the bestiary about their abilities. However, they may also have another block of informational text not found in your room or the bestiary and but can be found in another room which happens to be their living quarters; this completely separate room details what spells or items this enemy is prepared to use. That's still not all: there is an entire section dedicated to the faction they belong to at the beginning of the book, so you have to look that up as well. These enemies might also have spells specific to this module, so you'll have to go to the appendix and look up the spell information. Whoops, they also have a specific magic item that will help them that's detailed in the back of the book in an appendix. Ok, battle's done. Your players are now sifting through the treasure. Wait, this item isn't in the module, nor OSE, nor the OSRIC book. It's found in some other zine or resource. So you have to look that up. Ok, everything is said and done. Time to move on. And then you'll one day find MORE info about this now dead guy in another section in the appendix "World of Archontos"; and it turns out they were a leader (happened several times with human characters that had specific roles in the society detailed in the setting).

See my discussion post for the end of my review.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Classified
by Sam [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2024 04:39:16

The JAMES BOND 007 game is a masterpiece of design, serving its subject perfectly, but it is long out of print. CLASSIFIED takes that system, tweaks it where it needs adjustment, and gifts it to you. It could come in a glitzier package, but here system is the point.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classified
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Lava Rules! Fire and Brimstone
by Gray H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2023 12:31:53

Hands-down the best rules for lava in any edition in D&D. Comprehensive, simple, easy to grok.
I use these rules all the time when the party encounters lava. A+, and the price is perfect!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lava Rules! Fire and Brimstone
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by Logan G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2023 13:54:37

I bought this having watch 3d6DTL play it on youtube and thought it would be a fun adventure for my players to try out a more OSR type experience having played a lot of 5e over the past years. We play on a virtual tabletop (Roll20) and are using the Shadowdark RPG rules set and are about 6 sessions in at the time of writing this. Despite me mapping the first 2 levels most of the time has been spent in the ruined city as this seems to have caught the playerss interest.

The good/great

  1. The maps are all detailed, none of the old TSR style "empty so the DM can fill it"
  2. The world feels organic, stuff seems to have a good reason to be there and does not necessarily fill a particular level need
  3. NPCs have sufficient detail and character to be interesting to the party
  4. Summaries of the monsters and loot at the end of each map key description

For the bad

  1. It is a little tedious to set up the dynamic lighting for these enormous maps, however the sense of exploration is amazing.
  2. The scope is so large it can sometimes be hard to find stuff, I cannot imagine trying to do it in a non-digital format


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
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The VTT Maps of Arden Vul
by Craig C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2023 15:16:56

Respectfully, these maps are extremely difficult to use in an actual VTT environment, and I'd like to know if it's possible to have the cartographer or publisher recreate them.

As a result of an unknown process during their making, each map has a different scale! That is to say, a 10' square on the map grid might be 65 pixels on one map, but as high 97 pixels or as low as 58 pixels on a different map. Every single map has a different scale of pixels per square. These scales are not listed anywhere in the files offered.

Worse, several maps I directly measured (Level 3 and Level 4) have a different value of pixels per 10' square on different parts of the same map. It is not possible to merely change the size or pixel density of the maps in Photoshop to correct this problem.

This means that if a regular grid is applied to the maps in a VTT program, player tokens will not move at a regular pace across the map--each individual movement will slightly and additively misalign the token with the map grid. Additionally, no token will appear to be the same size relative to the map if it moves between maps. If your 5' square character token is 34 pixels to a side, it will appear to take up ~1/4th of a grid square on a map where a 10' square is 65 pixels to a side. If that same token moves to a map where a 10' square is now 97 pixels to a side, it will appear to be ~30% smaller. This also applies to every single monster token used.

While you could turn off the VTT-level grid and exclusively rely on the visible grid within the map itself, that's kind of a crap solution for files meant specifically to be used with VTT software. It is extremely frustrating to discover that the technical quality of these assets are so poor.

Finally, the GM-facing maps are of a lower resolution than the player-facing maps, and so cannot be overlaid in a VTT as a low-opacity mask to give the GM information directly on the screen while players only see the player-facing version. My attempt to solve this problem required that I use the files from VTT_Arden_Vul_Black_Maps.zip (which are player-facing) as a player-visible layer, and then copy and save the blue-color, full-size GM-facing map images directly out of The_Maps_of_Arden_Vul.pdf (from https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/307323/The-Maps-of-Arden-Vul) using SumatraPDF (free, lightweight, PDF reader) and use those as a hidden tile overlay in Foundry. It was a pain in the XXX, and revealed the pixel scaling issues I've written about here, so godspeed.

The maps are quite good in terms of cartography--I have no issues with them in that regard. However, fixing the technical issues I've described would require many hours of non-automated labor for any user. Given the high investment cost of time and money required to run Arden Vul, I sincerely hope that whoever is responsible for the quality of these maps will consider correcting these problems and republishing them.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The VTT Maps of Arden Vul
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Classified
by Ian K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2023 00:01:46

To my mind, the James Bond rpg is the best high-action, pure espionage ruleset there is, and Classified would be the best way to play it in the 2020s even if the original were somehow still in print. It is to JB 007 what Old School Essentials is to Moldvay D&D (cleaned up, more concise, more neatly organized) but also more than that because it subtlly streamlines a number of rules and tackles the not-insignificant task of updating the original's large catalogue of 1980s tech to the present day (or at least the 2010s), all while maintaining complete backwards compatibility. Also, the author's not-SPECTRE antagonist org and villains are pitch-perfect and show real creativity and love of the source material. The author clearly "gets" the tone and details of Bond media and espionage fiction in general in a way that frankly makes most other contemporary spy-themed rpgs look kind of half-assed by comparison (Night's Black Agents and Delta Green excepted, naturally). While the chart-hunting and numerous special procedures might be a turn-off for some, I find said procedures are well worth the trouble for the spot-on genre emulation they provide (and can be modfied or skipped over easily enough as the GM prefers), modifiers and difficulty ratings can be eyeballed, and the main resolution table can be easily internalized once you spot the formula it's derived from. In other words, it plays fast and seamlessly once you get the basics down. TLDR: This game rips, and it's a shame it doesn't get more attention.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classified
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One on One Adventures Compendium
by M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2022 19:25:28

Overpriced for what's present. Also, many of the adventures are are remarkably specific (i.e., tied to a PC of a particular class and level). Not nearly enough generally applicable material to justify the price.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
One on One Adventures Compendium
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One on One Adventures Compendium Two
by M. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2022 19:24:56

Overpriced for what's present. Also, many of the adventures are are remarkably specific (i.e., tied to a PC of a particular class and level). Not nearly enough generally applicable material to justify the price.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
One on One Adventures Compendium Two
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
by Ed D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2022 22:07:32

This is an outstanding book. It contained much more than I expected. I am worldbuilding a campaign setting with a human centered kingdom and this answers questions I haven't yet tackled.

Thanks a bunch.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe Third Edition
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Arden Vul Bundle [BUNDLE]
by David A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/29/2022 14:45:41

I just received the 5 books. These will take a while to digest, but after paging through them for the last hour or so I am very impressed. well worth the investment.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arden Vul Bundle [BUNDLE]
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The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
by Richard W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/13/2022 11:31:33

Amazing!

I purchased The Halls of Arden Vul Complete. I usually don't spend this kind of money on a single module but the material intrigued me. I can say without a doubt that the Campaign is huge! Very thorough, unique, ecologically sound, and well thought out. It is over 1000 pages long with clever traps, magic, monsters and the setting itself is engrossing. There is a reason for almost everything in this campaign and your players will spend a very long time (dare I say years) in this campaign. I hesitate to call it a module since it is so large.

This is truly a labor of love and well worth the money I spent on it. I am simply in awe of the amount of effort it took to write this.

Keep up the great work!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Halls of Arden Vul Complete
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Malevolent & Benign (Pathfinder Edition)
by James B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2022 23:50:23

A third-party collection of monsters for the Pathfinder RPG, clearly inspired by the AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio - its title is even taken from the Fiend Folio's subtitle. This is actually a conversion of another third-party product, designed for AD&D 1E, and that origin is reflected in the distinctly old-school writing style. Like the Fiend Folio, this book is full of strange and unusual monsters. There aren't any truly bad monsters in this book, although some feel less inspired (mainly the subtle variations on existing monsters) while others feel like a few random traits smashed together. (Also, for some reason, they included the wood giant from the Wizards-approved third-party Tome of Horrors.) One disappointing aspect of the book is that only half or so of the creatures are illustrated, but fortunately they all include the Pathfinder-standard text descriptions.

Some highlights from the book include:

  • Arcanoplasm: An amorphous creature that absorbs and replicates spells.
  • Blessed Ring: A ring of mushrooms that protects the good and devours the evil.
  • Bone Sovereign: A skeletal creature that absorbs other skeletons to increase its power, and can command other undead.
  • Brine Crust: An ooze-like creature composed of animated salt that can drain moisture from victims.
  • Dark Woodsman: A wood-based humanoid that animates trees to fight in its other-planar wars.
  • Goldencrest: An ooze infused with positive energy that targets undead.
  • Ioun Golem: A construct that can compel others to gather ioun stones to reactivate it, after which it's basically a gem beholder.
  • Haemovorid: A self-hating, bloodthirsty fusion of pixie and stirge.
  • Inscriber: An undead creature that craves written knowledge and pulls it from writing around them; they can also steal or impart knowledge to others.
  • Lostling: A spirit that died lost and alone in the wilderness, and tries to make others share its fate by getting them lost as well.
  • Molt Naga: A naga that can teleport out of its shed skin, which fights on while the naga escapes.
  • Rope Horror: Basically a rope golem, which can unwind itself to pass through small gaps.
  • Skyshark: Part shark, part bat, all murder.
  • Time Spider: A spider that builds its webs in four dimensions; adventurers may suddenly find themselves surrounded by its webs.
  • Tulgorth: Plant-mold creatures that drain the life force from nearby plants, and can infect humanoids with spores to create more tulgorths.
  • Vorpa: A giant wasp-scorpion hybrid. 'Nuff said. (Originally posted on Goodreads)


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Malevolent & Benign (Pathfinder Edition)
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