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Cult of the Dragon (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2020 23:31:05

Quick review of the PoD version for anyone interested. The book itself is high-quality- even higher quality than the original that was released. Used copies of that go for around the same price that you can get a PoD copy, so there's that. Mine came with the title printed on the spine, though I know this is not always the case...I think it varies by what printing studio your order is sent to, based on your location.

The content is, of course, useful for anyone that wants to bring the Cult into their campaign as an ominous and threatening presence. I mean, undead dragons and a vicious, secretive cult that worship them...I think that's enough of a threat for any band of adventurers to take seriously, don't you?

Like the Code of the Harpers, the book outlines and details the hierarchy, habits, and influence of the Cult. It contains everything a DM would need to present them in a campaign as a threat to be taken very seriously. Throw in other organizations like the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards, and you've got plenty of challenges for a party of any strength or disposition.

It's easy to reccomend this volume, since the physical quality is higher than even the original, and it contains a wealth of information about one of the Realm's most reclusive and secretive organizations.

Unfortunately, my copy came damaged - like every other single softcover PoD I've ever ordered here - but I think that's more a problem with the specific printing studio my order was sent to. It's well-worth the money, especially considering the price of a used copy. Just get this one, as it's (mostly) cheaper and higher quality.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cult of the Dragon (2e)
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Elminster's Ecologies (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2020 23:22:57

Throwing a quick review up for the PoD version of this invaluable tome. The PoD quality is surprisingly good, with a few caveats. The content itself is incredibly useful for anyone running or playing in a Realms campaign. This is one seriously comprehensive set.

The quality of the physical copy is quite good. The softcover is actually quite massive, as they're cramming many different books into one volume here. The title was printed on the spine for my copy, though I know this seems to vary based on what physical location your order is sent to. The text is easily readable and the colors are just about perfect; in many ways, it's hard to tell a difference from the original ones, except for the massive size of the thing. I've had no problems reading any of it or using the tables given for random encounters and such. Very impressed in that regard.

However, there are a few problems. As with every other softcover PoD product I've ordered, it came damaged. The damage is neither minor nor is it significant, if that makes sense. There is a rather serious bend at the top of the spine. Additionally, some of the pages (especially where the cover was printed on regular paper in between the individual booklets) the ink is so heavy that the page is naturally bending rather awkwardly; if you've ever printed something very color-intensive on plain paper, you'll know the effect I'm talking about...it just makes the page kind of unwieldy and very malleable.

Another issue I have is that since this book is combining many separate booklets into one volume, you would rightfully expect that those contents would be presented in proper order, which they are not. The beginning of the box set actually starts in the middle of the book. I have no idea how that happened, as I've never seen that with any other "box set" that was tranferred to PoD format. It's just bizarre. I guess it's not a huge deal really, but it's just strange and definitely kind of annoying, especially for those of us with OCD-like tendencies.

Aside from the copy arriving damaged, and the puzzling and confusing layout choices, I'm still glad I purchased this volume, as it is extremely useful for a campaign of any significant duration set in the Realms; you're given more background and ecological information than you could possibly ever need. The random encounter tables, which are organized in a nice and intuitive manner, are incredibly useful when your party is exploring the different regions. Having each section color-coded is also quite handy, as you can quickly find and flip to whatever specific region it is you're looking for.

Overall, I think this is a must-have for anyone that wants to add a degree of- maybe not "realism"- but verisimilitude, to their campaign. You're given a textbook's worth of content on a fictional world; everything from points of interest in the different regions to the behavior of predators and prey, and much more besides. I own the Ruins of Undermountain I and II, City of Splendors, Masque of the Red Death, and many other really awesome sets, but I think this one is my favorite, just for the sheer volume of information it presents. It also helps immensely that the writing style is casual and friendly; like an old friend telling a story, rather than a textbook or strictly scientific style of writing...it really helps to make it readable and enjoyable to take it all in. From Sahaugin terrorizing the coasts of Cormyr and Sembia to the dragons that roost in the Storm Horns, this book details everything you could possibly want to know about the natural systems that make up the wonderful world of the Forgotten Realms. There are a few areas that aren't detailed, but that's not really a big deal since those locales are detailed elsewhere, and it gives you enough of a foundation to fill in the details of those regions yourself, if you're so inclined. If you are going to flesh out the other regions yourself, it's helpful that the regions are detailed by type: mountains, plains, swamps, deserts, forests, etc., so you can at least use those sections as building blocks.

Liked: Absolutely massive amount of information and flavor to help bring your campaign to life - a staggering portrayal of living, breathing ecosystems that can help add a lot of immersion to Forgotten Realms campaigns. Writing style is friendly, casual, and perfectly readable. Disliked: All of my softcover PoD copies come damaged in some way. It's extremely frustrating, but it's hard to tell if it's the packaging, the handling, or something else. I won't knock any stars off my rating for it though, just because of how great this volume is, and how useful it can be to help bring a campaign to life. I also wish they had arranged the booklets in the proper order. I don't understand how the beginning ended up in the middle of the book. But the nature of the content means this isn't a deal-breaker, since it's still useable, and color-coded by region.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elminster's Ecologies (2e)
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Ruins of Undermountain II: The Deep Levels (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2020 22:47:22

So I'll throw a quick review of the PoD up for anyone interested. As usual with these things, the box contents are all scanned and put into page formats at the back of the book. In most cases for these box sets, that means they're mostly useless. In this case, the layout was pretty good, as the maps were oriented in such a way that you can hold open the book and view the level maps quite easily; the quality is surprisingly good on mine, and I'm able to make out the lettering and symbols on the maps. I'd still like to try and get the maps custom printed, but for now, having them as double-page spreads at the back of the book is perfectly fine, considering they're not advertising a recreation of the classic box sets or anything- it works well enough for my purposes. [edit: I just wanted to clarify that the maps are printed in a way that they're NOT split across pages; the level maps are half-per-page, but they're on pages right next to each other so it's very easy to view the whole level without flipping back and forth.]

I've heard mixed things about some of the scan quality, and how some of those old books do not translate well to PoD simply because of the shades of the background or the lightness of the font. This is not the case with this one, or with the Elminster's Ecologies, Cult of the Dragon, or Temple of Elemental Evil that I purchased. They're all legible and perfectly readable.

My only complaint is that the book- like almost every other softcover PoD I've ordered- arrived damaged. There is a not-insignificant bend at the top right corner of the spine, like it was crumpled or something. This has happened every single time I've ordered a softcover from DTRPG, and I'm not sure it's worth it anymore, at some of the prices I'm paying. Like the Elminster's Ecologies? For a little bit more money, I could buy the original box set in great condition.

The actual content here is, of course, fantastic. I'm not really keen on the metallic, computer-type AI beings, so I might just nix that from my campaign when I run it; just not really the style I'm looking for in a fantasy RPG. I also got really tired of the dumb puns for each and every room key. But aside from those minor complaints, it's a wonderful- if not required- resource if you're wanting to run a party through the lower depths of Undermountain. Overall, there seems to be less content than the original box set (which I own), but it could also just be that the book format is skewing my perception.

I would reccomend this PoD, if only because the content is great, and the damage my copies seem to sustain might just be an anomaly regarding the particular printing service they use that is close to my location. Undermountain is one of the most intense and high-adrenaline dungeons you can run for a group, and it's status as a near-mythical setting is well-deserved.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ruins of Undermountain II: The Deep Levels (2e)
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T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2020 22:07:23

As someone that never had the chance to play the original module, ordering the PoD seemed like a high priority. While I still haven't run or played it, I'll comment on the layout and overall quality. My copy does have the title printed on the spine; I suspect this is something that is determined by the printing service being used, as these appear to be different locations and printers depending on your location.

The layout is fine. I knew the maps would be scanned and on pages, but it's still unwieldy and I suggest people use the PDF and a custom printer if they want fold-out maps or something. It's still totally do-able but caveat emptor. Also, like many of the paperbacks I've received through PoD, the book arrived damaged - it's relatively mild I guess, but it's still frustrating to pay $25 for a small paperback, and it comes damaged (significant bending in the center of the book, and a damaged corner of the spine). Maybe it's just me, but I feel like that's just unacceptable for what is supposed to be a brand-new printing.

The module itself is...not really what I was expecting. If you're intent on running it, you will NEED the errata that was released; I didn't get the PDF so I'm not sure if that is included in the download or not, but it's absolutely required, because the module as-presented has a lot of issues that DMs will have to work around. I understand the module has a legendary quality because of the author and his following, and it is certainly deserved, but this module needs work to be implemented into a campaign...though I suppose that could be said of all modules.

Overall, I'm slightly disappointed but I also wouldn't return it if I could. It's something I feel like I want in my collection, warts and all. As I said, depending on the printing service they send your order to, it's kind of 50/50 whether it will arrive damaged or not. Like my book has a significant, severe BEND, right in the MIDDLE of it...that's not okay. And this is not the first time that has happened. So again, caveat emptor. And if you ever have a choice between hardback and softcover, get the hardback, as those seem to show up in much better condition.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
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For Gold & Glory
Publisher: God Emperor Games
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2020 21:57:20

This is a fantastic book and highly reccomended for anyone who is interested in or currently playing 2nd edition. Whether you're coming from 5th, are brand new to tabletop RPGs, or an old-hand of 2E, this book is pretty much perfect. It wouldn't be fair to call it "2.5," but it does take the best parts of the Player's Options rules (like Fighting Styles) and implements them without a hitch.

I bought the black/white hardback, and at the price I paid, I'm very satisfied. Some PoD books I get have a bad habit of being damaged before arriving, but this one was in perfect condition and it looks impressive, even just being black and white.

I also appreciate that the writing style is a bit more intuitive than the core rulebooks. The only thing I didn't like was that many of the optional rules present in core 2E were either not included, or made a part of the core system here. But since I suspect very few people are playing FG&G solely as a standalone game, and probably more as a supplement to it, that's not a big problem and certainly not worth docking any points on it for.

The B&W hardback is beautiful, and cheaper than the (only paperback) PoD PHB that's on offer through Wizards. I've heard some complaints about the art (it's all public domain paintings and such) but I was actually hugely impressed by how the layout and arranging of these pieces was done in such a way as to fit the subject matter being presented in the rules. And the art certainly gets the job done, considering what they had to work with. Many of the pieces are actually quite fitting, and as good as anything produced for 2E.

Overall, this is a stellar product that I easily reccomend for anyone that is interested in 2E; no matter your level of familiarity with the system, this book makes an excellent intro to what is and has for many years been my system of choice.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
For Gold & Glory
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