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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit $9.95 $5.97
Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
by Michael P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/29/2020 21:35:52

I'll make this more short and sweet. Much of what I said about the Players Manual applies here. The name here is accurate and conveys what you're getting pretty well. This feels less like a separate rulebook for GMs and more a collection resources and tools to be used in running the game. Plenty of tables to generate things on the fly and guidelines on how things will interact mechanically. Guidelines on everything from how weather can impact adventurers to how to build your setting. Not to mention a very broad seleciton of magic items to hand out. All in all, a very solid book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
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!]
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2013 13:54:12

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

One of the greatest books ever produced for any game is the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. One of the most disappointing books ever made was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The logic for this was good. All the information that all players need should be in the Player's Handbook. The rest goes into the DMG. The result should be a larger Player's Book than a Game Master's book. That is what we got for 2nd ed. Somehow it didn't quite work as well.

Adventures Dark & Deep follows the same logic but gain a different result.
The Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is the book that BRW and Joseph Bloch didn't have to do a Kickstarter for. The statement that Joe put out at the time was Kickstarters are for projects he needed to finish the funding for. The Game Masters Toolkit did not need it.

The GMTK is smaller than the Player's Book at 174 pages. Not as small as the 2nd ed DMG, but the comparison is there. The GMTK also includes some information from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore but it also has a lot more.

The GMTK also follows an example from 2nd ed and it largely mirrors the layout and placement of sections form the Players Book. Something that the 1st ed DMG could have done better. We start with a discussion on "alternate" races like the Dark Elf or Deep Gnome. Various NPC types are discussed including class distribution and some non-classes like noble and hirelings. There are tables to generate personalities and physical traits for random NPCs, as well as alignment and possessions.

We get into the Game Environment that is a hold over from A Curious Volume. Swimming, Underwater travel and Flying are also discussed along with various terrains and hazards. A little bit down we have a section on ships that is greatly expanded. Again, could have used this when I was wrapping up my 1st Ed AD&D game. The feel of these is similar to the classic DMG, but better organized.

Social Encounters come from A Curious Volume, but having them here in context with the other rules is much nicer.

Treasure types are discussed and magic item distribution.

The most interesting bits to me are coming up. To me this shows the influence of the 3e DMG or just a natural progression. Bloch covers not just the campaign world, the campaign mythos as well. So whether you like playing in a Classical world, a Lost Golden Age, Underground or even in a Lovecraftian-inspired world is up to you. You are given the tools to build what you need, but not the worlds themselves (this is Feature, not a Bug!).

Religion and Gods are covered next. Various reasons to have a god or a patron deity are covered and what sorts of powers they all have. The list of powers and abilities is more 1st Ed than 2nd Ed. I will also admit I don't know much off the top of my head about what Gygax said about gods and religions. I know he said some things. On a personal note I had conversations with Mr. Gygax himself on the topic of religion and I know he was no great fan despite his own history.
Bloch though moves on and gives us a sample Pantheon to use in our game, the Norse gods. Again from personal knowledge I know that Joseph Bloch is a fan of the Norse mythology and gods, so this is a good fit really. Though I do wonder at the utility of listing the XP for permanently slaying Odin (1,022,000 XP btw).

The Planes of Existence is up next and it is cut from the Gygaxian cloth. Wholly compatible to what we have seen in 1st and 2nd ed, there are some nice twists. I like the art depicting the planes in relationship to each other.

Next we get into a section on Designing Adventures. Covered are Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban. The section is not long, but very useful.

Magic Items are next. Personally I would have liked the charts for the Magic Items and the descriptions to all be in one place. This takes up quite a bit of the book at 70 pages.

Appendix A is last and it collects and reprints all the useful tables.

With the GMTK you can really see the utility of Adventures Dark & Deep over a reference guide like OSRIC. Not a slight at OSRIC at all, but this book has a slight edge in just by being a seperate Game Masters book.

To me the advantages of this book, all this information is one place, is better than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord + what is missing.

That being said, there are still some things I would have done differently. Most involve the placement of various section. Others I know are "locked" into the Gygazian visions or at least how Joseph Bloch interprets them. For me, I think I would have expanded the sections on adventuring in Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban settings more. I would have expanded the section on how to create magic items and even changed somethings. But that is me.

All in all this is a good addition to the game line. I felt less of the Gygax connection here. Hard to say if that is me not knowing what he said on these subjects OR these are things that need to be here logically to make the rest of the game work. In any case I am happy with what I got.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 11:25:34

Joseph Bloch poses the question, "What if Gary Gygax had not left TSR in 1985, and had been allowed to continue developing the world's most famous fantasy role-playing game?" Adventures Dark and Deep is a possible answer to that question. I'm a gamer from the late 70's. I remember that feeling when I first opened a copy of AD&D DM's Guide. Everytime I opened that book I found something new. Something fascinating. In the proceeding years nothing has been able to replicate that feeling. Until I opened the Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit. There is a lot of packed into its pages. I find myself flipping through it and catching things I missed the first time around. The rules provided are hauntingly familiar, but with light touches that make them new. This book too me back to when I was a teen-age gamer sitting in my friend's room comparing the new discovers, sharing the knowledge we were gleaming from these precious tomes. Joseph has done an incredible job of capturing that magic and putting a fresh spin on it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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