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HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2019 20:00:28

If you like old school dungeon crawls, this is worth checking out. It is quite similar in tone and style to Gillespie's other efforts, meaning you get a ton of content, lots of maps (not always easy to follow/connect), lots of cool old school images, new monsters, assorted factions albeit not always well fleshed out, plenty of treasure (including gem sizes & quality), and a fair amount of typos. As others have noted, there are numerous references to the author's other modules, including directives to find monster stats there. A trifle annoying, but since I own those and have every intention of buying any future products he produces, it doesn't bother me much. It's true that the "ground setting" of the adventure isn't terribly well developed. But to me, that's not a problem since I'm dropping it into my home campaign setting anyhow. In fact, the drifting aspect is great because you can put it anywhere you want. It also makes this megadungeon a bit more modular than the others in terms of being able to easily come and go at your whim. You can just say "the damn dungeon moved" and come back to it later. You could also easily extract the wizard towers and dungeons on their own if you wanted a shorter experience. Another thing I love about this adventure are all the crazy book titles and random tables for generating your own in such settings. I've already made use of these in one of my own adventures. So while the setting depth and backstory might not be a developed as those of Barrowmaze or Archaia, the adventure makes up for it in broader flexibility and utility. Worth the price for the amount of usage you can get out it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
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Castles & Crusades -- Tome of the Unclean
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Ken S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/23/2019 00:43:50

I soured on C&C awhile ago and actually forgot I had kickstarted this. So when it came out of the blue a few months ago, I just put it on the shelf. In the past week I finally decided to check it out and the verdict is pretty underwhelming. Sure, there are lots of demons, devils and other denizens of the Underworld. And it did come with a nifty color map that I'll definitely make use of. But the monsters themselves are just okay. They attempt to alter most of the old D&D creatures somewhat, including demon lords and arch devils, but most of the alterations aren't really improvements. A handful of the new ones are cool enough that I'll work them into my own version of the Infernus. Unfortunately the entries tend to be way too long and all the stuff about them in Aihrde, the default C&C campaign setting, is pretty much boring fluff. Frankly, that setting has never been particularly interesting to me. Others may like it, I suppose. C&C's usual spotty editing is on full display here as well. The artwork, like that of most C&C products, is not particularly good. It's not even really old school, but comes off as blurry or half finished much of the time. And a good portion of it is recycled from other books. I will still use this for my Labyrinth Lord games, but it's not really a must own, unless you really want a few new demons and devils, or want to mix them up a bit to challenge your players.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades -- Tome of the Unclean
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Barrowmaze Complete
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/12/2018 01:19:37

If you like traps, tricks, and hordes of undead, then you'll enjoy this adventure. It differs from some of the standard dungeons in that it's basically horizontal. There are dozens of small barrow mounds scattered around a larger dungeon complex. There is a brief backstory and a generic, yet fairly useful setting provided that can be easily dropped into most campaigns. There are also some helpful hints on dungeon exploration (bring a sledgehammer) and alternate rules for things like turning undead in this necromantically charged environment. A variety of new monsters and magic items add flavor to the adventure and serve to keep even veteran players on their toes. The author also makes it a "living dungeon" by adding rules for re-stocking and including assorted rival adventuring parties.

In terms of the adventure itself, it is generally a sandbox where parties can go where they choose. But there are potential larger goals and more dangerous foes if they delve into the Barrowmaze proper. While it suggests that beginning characters could play and gain levels while going back and forth from the dungeons, I'd suggest at least 3rd-4th level characters to start. There are lots of traps and lots of monsters. And the special undead turning rules can quickly render clerics, especially low level ones, pretty impotent. On the positive side, there is lots of treasure to be had, perhaps too much in fact. Smaller parties might level up fairly quickly if treasure is counted for experience by your DM.

With respect to extras, the book is full of great old school style pictures, reminiscent of those in Tomb of Horrors. And many are gathered in a single section at the back. Stats are provided for most monsters right in the book, along with those for key NPCs. There are even a few new deities presented that could be easily slotted into most campaigns. The random dungeon dressing, pit content, and other tables at the back will also be of use far beyond this adventure for most DMs. In short, this is a hack and slash extravaganza, with some opportunities for problem solving thrown in. It is technically for Labyrinth Lord, but can be played with 1st/2nd edition AD&D or any of the standard OSR games. And for what you get and how much time it would take to play the whole thing, it's worth the price of the hardcover, let alone the pdfs. Certainly more creative and interesting that the stuff a certain West coast game company churns out these days.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
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The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/09/2018 23:46:06

This is a very big (indeed, mega) dungeon crawl in a sandbox style with a bit of a twist. The caverns are spread out as an ancient sunken city in a canyon. There is a larger meta-plot for the players to foil. However, it may be quite difficult for them to figure out exactly what it is, given the scattered nature of the clues. In fact it can even be a bit daunting for the DM because of the organization of the book. A clearer explanation of the machinations of the villains and how the party can stop them would have been nice. One can figure this out, but it takes a fair amount of flipping back and forth through different sections of the book.

That being said, this might be considered Keep on the Borderlands on steroids. There are all kinds of lairs, ranging from multi-level complexes inhabited by humanoids and giants, to smaller ones filled with assorted critters and undead. There are a fair amount of traps and tricks, but not as many as in Barrowmaze. Descriptions are minimal, but most of the dungeon areas have themes that provide enough mood for a skilled DM to supply details. There are factions that might be played against each other and a few NPCs that might join the party. There is enough variation that I can see my group enjoying this for months. The monsters range in strength from fairly weak humanoids like kobolds up to giants. Still, I would recommend starting this with characters of at least 3rd-4th level since there is a lot of combat involved. In terms of treasure, I'd say that it doesn't offer as much in the way of magic as Barrowmaze, but there's lots of coins and gems. And the gems are always identified by type, size, and quality for people who might be into that. So if your game uses treasure xp, then they can come back frequently, returning to their home base to level up. I'd say that one could easily gain 5 levels or more (starting at 3rd) by completing this adventure.

The larger setting is okay. There is a fairly generic town, briefly detailed, and descriptions of deities and humanoid hordes. The best part about it is that it can be seamlessly dropped into your own campaign world. I've already identified spots for this adventure and Barrowmaze in my campaign world though we haven't actually played either module yet. The new gods are interesting enough and the inclusion of some of their followers helps tie the different dungeons together. There are lots of new spells, magic items, some new monsters, and optional rules for magic, etc. Some of these are better than others, but on the whole, they are pretty good. Most, but not all, monster and magic item stats are included herein. A few are from Barrowmaze. This may irk some players, but both are great dungeons and I don't mind buying them both, even at this high price point for the hardcovers. The maps are pretty good overall, though the hex ones can be difficult to follow as they cover a lot of terrain and are spread over many pages. There are lots of useful illustrations; many gathered together towards the back of the book. I'd have preferred them right in the appropriate text area for ease of play, but this is by no means a deal breaker. There are plenty of random encounter tables, including encounters that are purely atmospheric, which is great. Pre-generated characters and rival adventuring parties are also provided. There are a few too many typos, but fewer than one finds in many of these publications nowadays.

Overall this is a very good product. It offers plenty of action, some problem solving, and a plethora of foes in true old school fashion. It can be easily used with any of the standard OSR rule sets or 1st/2nd edition AD&D, though it is technically written for Labyrinth Lord. Highly recommended if you like killing bad guys and taking their stuff!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia
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