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Shadowdark - Journeying on Non-Hexcrawl Maps
Publisher: SBM Press
by Tom [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/03/2024 06:12:48

Could have used an editing pass for clarity, precision, brevity.

When the document said it was about non-hexcrawl maps, I was expecting pointcrawl / pathcrawl, or pure maps, but what we get instead are totally-scale-free "areas" which are a little more divorced from actual concerns of time and distance than I'm keen to play with.

Uses a settled lands / wilderness dichotomy; I personally find the civilised / borderlands / wilderness three-stage division works well for world-building even if it's not quite as apparent in play.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowdark - Journeying on Non-Hexcrawl Maps
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Xem’s Guide to Exploration
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Tom [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/03/2024 06:08:13

Overwritten, random collection of ideas which are variously trite or underdeveloped. Claims to be about exploration but full of player-authored worldbuilding which undercuts that pillar. Makes grandiose claims that it doesn't deliver on - "Connections create goals", but they aren't goals, they're post-facto NPCs.

We could use a dozen pages of discussion of world design around Zones - we get one-half page that's oversimplified & doesn't integrate well with everything that follows. Then we get something like six pages of "Travel Roles", which there are already many implementations of for 5e; it's not clear how this one stands out from the others.

It reintroduces skill challenges, which took a lot of discussion and examples to make work well in 4e, but doesn't do that work. There's a bit of "extraordinary actions" that seem unrelated to everything else in the document.

Filler text "in character", meant to be humorous, particularly with a heavy-handed accent, makes me wish I could give 0 stars.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Xem’s Guide to Exploration
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Demesnes & Domination
Publisher: Arcane Sword Press
by Tom [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/27/2023 15:20:59

Reminiscent of some of the early fundamental texts of the game, in both good and bad ways:

full of ideas! far too many ideas. jumbled, disorganised, hard to follow; really needs an editor reads as if it has been designed but not developed. Great that playtesters were credited, but were these other DMs? Or players, with the author being the only one who directly engaged with this material?



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Demesnes & Domination
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the feedback and for taking the time to look through Demesnes & Domination! I appreciate it!
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Fifth Edition Fantasy #2: The Fey Sisters' Fate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/07/2023 15:53:57

My biggest problems intersect:

  1. linear adventure with no player choice and a complete assumption of what the party will do, and
  2. the party is assumed to ally with somebody whose actions are deeply unsympathetic, if not outright evil.

There's quantum treasure, if not a quantum ogre, there's poorly-written read-aloud text, there seems to be a general lack of thought about how to make the adventure legible at the table.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Fifth Edition Fantasy #2: The Fey Sisters' Fate
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Creator Reply:
We appreciate the feedback Tom. Thank you for the review. ~Matt Robertson Goodman Games
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The Necromuseum of Tutmus-Ra-Hotep-Pthah III
Publisher: Leicester's Rambles
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2023 04:19:00

There are some clever ideas / nice bits of design here, but

"Written to provide the game master the options of running it as a straight delve, humorous repast, roleplaying endeavour, or OHMYGODFLESHEATINGBEETLESEVERYWHERE!"

The tongue is thouroughly in cheek, and I don't see remotely how to run this except as total anachronistic humor. Which might fit your games! But it doesn't fit mine, so I don't think I'm getting much value out of this, unless I want to rewrite heavily.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Necromuseum of Tutmus-Ra-Hotep-Pthah III
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The Spider-God's Bride and Other Tales of Sword and Sorcery
Publisher: Xoth Publishing
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/20/2023 09:49:25

The swords and sorcery feeling is great, and I'd love to run some of the lower-level adventures if I could convince my players to sign up for a classic S&S campaign, but as you read further and further through the book it keeps hitting the themes of seduction & betrayal; those are important spice in a game, and can be the things focused on in linear fiction stories that are understood to be crucial points in a fictional character's career, but if they happen to PCs on every single adventure in a campaign, the players become jaded and start expecting the trope. So I'll need a larger source of S&S themed adventures that bring in the rest of the feeling, without having every attractive woman an agent, every patron a betrayer...



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Spider-God's Bride and Other Tales of Sword and Sorcery
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N4 Treasure Hunt (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/20/2023 09:41:02

Original for its time, but there are a lot of better-written "level 0 funnels" in newer adventures.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
N4 Treasure Hunt (1e)
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The Ancient Academy
Publisher: Robertson Games
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2023 16:16:17

This looks like a totally random one-page crawl without any context, but it's a little better than that: the very brief room descriptions show some thought, design, connections... Perfectly servicable.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ancient Academy
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CASTLE OLDSKULL - Game World Generator - Deluxe Edition
Publisher: Kent David Kelly
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2023 16:00:47

Verbose, padded, should be edited down to a third the length or less; a good editor might clean up some of the seeming self-contradiction & bits of dubiosu accuracy. This does have the longest lists of ideas that I've seen in a product like this, but with rather mixed quality & sometimes surprisingly narrow focus. The author assumes very strongly a AD&D 1E/Unearthed Arcana world mode. The thread of the writing gets even harder to follow in the City State extension, and the assumptions a lot stronger, although there are also more novel ideas there.

There are modern game systems or supplements with better hexcrawl/campaign-building advice, and several series of completely free blogposts do a better job of the core procedure.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
CASTLE OLDSKULL - Game World Generator - Deluxe Edition
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Demon-Bone Sarcophagus
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/08/2023 14:47:02

Some interesting ideas, but could have used multiple editing passes, significant development work.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Demon-Bone Sarcophagus
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The Abandoned Estate of Moonweaver Hall
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/08/2023 11:37:15

I'm not particularly fond of the map or some of the details, but the ideas here were quite good, and were easy to move into a map that better fit my needs & taste (Eastbury Manor House, Barking) and rewrite/expand just a little bit. This made it a great scenario for a bunch of first-level 5e characters trying to secure themselves access to the run-down base they'd been promised. The magic item from the shed seems ready to give us a lot of fun when the players figure out how to use it, and the escaped Halftail is a potential recurring frenemy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Abandoned Estate of Moonweaver Hall
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Player's Guide to Lesserton
Publisher: Catthulhu
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2022 09:45:27

I don't like Lesserton, but as far as 16-page (not too densely laid out) players' guides to campaigns go, this is pretty well done. If you want to run in the anachronistic Victorian town this will let your players know something about the culture, the well-known merchants and their prices, the various neighbourhoods and their reputations, and campaign-specific character generation rules. Nice player-facing maps!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Guide to Lesserton
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Portrait of a Villain - The Desire
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2022 03:02:52

This was an interesting idea for a supplement, but the subject matter is heavier and more 'adult' than any group I've had to play with, so I don't think there's much in here that I could salvage for my own campaign. The history/status of the sample city is actually pretty cool, but that's a tangent, and the development of the idea is pretty heavily tied into the themes my group won't go for.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Portrait of a Villain - The Desire
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At the Shrine of Othrys (A 5E Adventure & Sourcebook)
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/15/2022 16:54:09

I like this on reading. A medium-sized, very-strongly-themed dungeoncrawl with the potential for faction play with several different groups of (evil) cultists showing up after the players enter. Creative treasure, particularly interesting consumable magic. One nearby probably-hostile settlement briefly sketched. The separate player-facing map is quite appropriate: of high enough resolution & detail for oldschool play; fancier than dungeonscrawler output, but not as unreadably cluttered or illegibly shaded as you find with a lot of commercial 5e maps. The "Continuing & Concluding the Adventure" section isn't an explicit timeline but it has a really nice spread of discussion of faction goals & possible evolutions, ties to nearby parts of the world.

Downsides: really verbose, hints of quantum ogres (the competitive factions explicitly scale with party level), and perhaps a bit too on the nose with the elemental theming - the vast majority of the native opposition is "two mephits of (appropriate quasielemental subtype)".

I'm not sure about the skill checks - there sure are a lot of them, but then players having advantage on knowledge checks from their background ought to be really common, so there's not too much information hiding or "roll to make progress", and the range of physical DCs seems reasonable.

Nits: both the terrain map and the dungeon map in the book have critical material in the center of the page - which means it's cut by the "gutter" of the book layout, and thus really hard to read. Art is really mixed stylistically and varying in quality, so for every piece I'd be happy to show my players there are two I wouldn't.

The 4/5 rating assumes you're playing Swords of Kos or a generic anything-goes D&D setting. I'd give this only 3/5 in any of the other pseudo-Greek settings - the shrine is particularly wedded to a Gygaxian inner planes and the Swords of Kos cosmology, and there'll be a lot of work to drop this in another world cleanly. For example, Arkadia has four great titans, but they don't line up so cleanly with the elements, there's not a lot of support for paraelemental lesser titans, the geographic associations of the titans are different which pushes one to rearrange the dungeon, redrawing the map; this in turn suggests replacing at least some of the mephits, etc... Even less of a clear fit for Theros or Thylea.

Preliminary review; will update if I can get my players to head toward where I've dropped this into the world map.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
At the Shrine of Othrys (A 5E Adventure & Sourcebook)
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A Rocky Road
Publisher: Monkey's Paw Games
by Tom H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/14/2022 11:32:37

It seems a bit of a stretch to call this a "hexcrawl" when there aren't any hexes. I can't call it a "module", either.

Ok, sure, there's a map, and there are hexes superimposed over the map. But they don't have a purpose. Movement? No scale. Terrain-per-hex? No, the map is hand-drawn. Locations? There are zero labels, zero locations, zero hex descriptions. Description? Nothing is named except landmarks off-map.

Sure, there are several pages of tables of random things, organised by what kind of terrain they're found in. Woven in between the entries of the tables are what I think the cool kids are calling "implicit worldbuilding" - "Hey, this random encounter mentions a cult! There must be a cult!"

There's some attempts to be atmospheric or evocative in the text - in GM-facing text in parts of the supplement that need to be load-bearing, informative, not inspirational.

I appreciate the publisher making this PWYW; I'll assume it's typical of their work, and look elsewhere. I'm looking for technical communication, not artpunk.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
A Rocky Road
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