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Carapace
Publisher: Goblin's Henchman
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/17/2020 14:11:24

There's a surprising amount of material in this product. The main booklet ostensibly presents a basic adventure for a small group of 3rd to 6th level ADandD characters (or similar - the monster stats are from the ADandD Monster Manual, however), a raid on a giant ant colony causing problems for an isolated wilderness town. The material here could easily last several sessions, as there's a small wilderness area to investigate, and the vested interests of the plot-hook NPCs to get embroiled in, aside from delving into the ant nest itself. A supplementary download with the booklet provides a sheet of portraits for all the NPCs listed. These are very well-drawn, to the point where I felt I could see possible familial links just from the faces. A second optional extra item adds a fresh level of problems for the players to solve over in the ant nest, which pushes a little towards Lovecraftian horror.

However, the meat of "Carapace" is the three variant random mechanics for generating the ant colony, two of which are mapless. One of these naturally employs the hex-flower method Goblin's Henchman products are noted for. All three can be used on-the-fly, with player participation, and allow the creation of chambers of varying sizes, shapes and significant features within the nest, plus random encounters that increase in difficulty with distance into the colony. There's also a ready-reference stat-block appendix page for all the monsters, including one new monster for this set-up.

Such random-generation mechanics clearly have uses beyond just this giant insect colony setting, as the booklet's introduction notes. As the "Point Crawl" method uses schematic maps to give a 2D overview of key places and links within the colony, it can be used as a base to construct more detailed maps, should you wish. I did just that recently, by randomly creating a series of three vertical colony "slices", and then linked them up with the normal "Carapace" semi-random number of passages, before drawing the series of what had become complete maps of the 3D colony layout. Think three linked ant-farm panels, basically.

Much to explore and think about here as a GM, exactly what I want from an RPG product. Don't forget to drop the Henchman some cash if you too find it useful!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carapace
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Creator Reply:
Hi Alastair Thanks very much for the great review. Interestingly, before I introduced the two mapless options, I did just what you suggested. I had interlinked colony "slices”. I think that is a great way to go for an extended point-crawl generated insect colony. :O)
The Wiccan Character Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2016 09:00:57

Some interesting ideas here for a new magic-using character class, which has more than a little of the shaman about it. There are a few oddities about the write-up, such as the unexplained, but apparently important, "undead thrall" on page 4 (Rite of Bone). Perhaps the greatest difficulty for me is what seems the retrograde step of reintroducing very specific spell components in the form of the poorly-described "spirit candles" needed to cast all non-ritual Wiccan spells. D&D 5e seemed to have a nicely streamlined view on material spell components (if you carry the pouch, you have the components always with you, in essence, or you use a magical focus which negates the need for them), because except in rare cases when such components had a distinct story value - as is still the case - that's what a lot of players and DMs eventually agreed upon, to improve playability. By contrast, a lot of a Wiccan's time seems to be spent worrying about these candles - endlessly slaughtering living creatures to make them, actually making them, then lugging them around just so you can find you don't have quite enough of the dratted things at a key moment in combat. Not sure this will make for a playable adventuring character, unfortunately, though perhaps of use as an NPC now and again (slaughtering living creatures just for magical components seems inherently evil, after all!).



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Wiccan Character Class
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Alternate Trinkets List
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2016 08:35:07

More a list of 100 additional trinket options than an Alternate, Alternative, or New (depending on whether you go by the title on the PDF's cover, the name on the product web page, or the title of the List in the document) Trinkets List. Semantics aside, more trinket options must surely be welcomed by most D&Ders!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Trinkets List
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Commoners
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2016 08:20:03

I was sure I couldn't have been the only one to have developed systems and ideas for running zero-level characters before they started life as full adventurers in 5e D&D, given the importance now placed on thinking about each character's earlier background. This supplement certainly provides some ideas I'd not thought of - as well as some I had! - and a more detailed system to run adventures generally for such "lowly" folk.

As with all such innovative things, it's often difficult to be sure how it will run in game-play, but at the very least, there's plenty here to work with and tweak, if necessary. For those to whom this concept could be of interest, I'd be happy to heartily recommend it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Commoners
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The Crohak Clan
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2016 08:06:28

A nice twist for an expected "monster-only" creature. Some additional NPC stats to expand the 5e Monster Manual options would have been a useful addition, perhaps, since these creatures would be an interesting encounter for a "standard" party as well.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Crohak Clan
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D&D 5e - 80 Additional Minor Properties
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2016 07:48:44

This might have been better presented as a separate, additional list of options to that in the DM's Guide, or at least to have highlighted which items in the set weren't original to this document. There are certainly some interesing ideas here, though not all are equally good, or indeed appropriate in their relative power levels - the "Unencumbered" property, which allows the owner to ignore being encumbered, seems way too powerful to be classed as "minor", for example. Thankfully, most aren't so problematic, however.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
D&D 5e - 80 Additional Minor Properties
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D&D 5e - Expanded Armory & Gear
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2016 07:29:45

Like a lot of past attempts to add "new" weapons to RPGs, this adds fresh complexity while reducing both interest and playability. With no descriptive detail on most of the new weapons, nor even basic drawings, you've either got the choice of hunting around online or through books to find out what the things should look like and how they're used, or to just ignore that angle, and pick a near-equivalent from the extant 5e rules. In which case, why bother with a new name and maybe a marginally different damage die? Or worse still, with extra oddities to forget in the heat of combat?

There can be options to introduce fresh weapon and weapon types to D&D, providing they're fitted to particular cultures, races, or areas - there are plenty of historical real-world examples to draw upon for this, certainly. However, they need to be presented as a complete package with the culture, etc. (giving at least some background and flavour notes), rather than an almost random collection - albeit heavily influenced by Japanese weapons - as here. Plus in such a case, illustrations and descriptions of the items and their uses aren't optional extras; they're absolutely essential.

What's provided here isn't necessarily bad or "wrong", just it needed a lot more thought and preparation first, and maybe a reconsideration of whether so many minor variations on the current D&D weapons really adds anything useful to the game.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
D&D 5e - Expanded Armory & Gear
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Random Plant Effects
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2016 06:57:40

Probably better if the option lists had a greater number of possible effects. With often two or more effects per plant, repetition sets in too rapidly with just 10 options. However, more can be easily added by an interested DM, and there are some nice ideas here already.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Random Plant Effects
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Nasci - 5e Race Addition
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2016 06:52:44

Some intriguing ideas here, although it's not always clear how the Nasci might fit in with some of the other plant and fey creatures in the D&D setting overall. Perhaps some further discussion of their fey ancestry would have been useful too. Certainly provides food for thought though.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nasci - 5e Race Addition
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Wizard Tradition: the School of Chronomancy
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2016 08:32:33

I like the ideas here, but as others have commented already, I'd be very reluctant to allow them for use in a character class. I could see this working as a rare NPC in a campaign though, particularly the whole Causal Paradox aspect.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard Tradition: the School of Chronomancy
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Plants and Fungi of the Realms
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2016 08:14:34

There are certainly a goodly number of interesting ideas in this book, as the publisher suggests. However, DMs wanting to make best use of many will find they'll need to do extra work, as in places you feel you're only getting half the story. For example, plants like the Calim Cactus and Creeping Mangrove are capable of movement from place to place, but aren't provided with stats to say how fast (or not) they can do so, nor is there any guidance regarding the Calim Cactus' possible special or magical movement, or whether their apparent motion overnight is really caused by some quite different effect. Others are attributed harmful or curative properties, but without any guidance on what those effects may be. Darmanzar Stalk, for instance, has small thorns that cause swollen, irritated cuts to skin that last for several hours after the plant has been touched, but there's nothing to suggest what problems that may cause in game terms. On the beneficial side, Umozokai Flower petals can be used make tea that's mentioned as having a wide variety of medical uses, though what these are again isn't stated. This contrasts with a few more active plant entries, such as Ghost Tendrils and Hangman Tree, that are provided with text descriptions AND full stat blocks.

The English could use a little work in places, and there are occasional typos (I especially liked the "violent" flowers of Fairy Bells, page 8; really meant to be a shade of purple, I'd guess), plus a few missing page numbers - like that also on page 8 - though nothing too major. Maybe it would have helped to mention that "Darkwood" in the Introduction is actually listed under Zalantar, given it might have been a typo for Duskwood, while the treated wood of Blueleaf has apparently similar properties to Darkwood as well. Indeed, the work could use some closing tables overall, with cross-referencing for the different names some plants may go by, and with a gazeteer for both specific Forgotten Realms locations, and general environments the various plants and fungi may be found, since I suspect those would be things a lot of DMs would find helpful when setting up adventures.

Plus of course, more plants and fungi could be added almost indefinitely. Seven curative plants I've been using in my own Northern Faerun setting, taken from the old 1e "Savage Frontier" sourcebook, aren't included here, as one quick example, and I'm aware of others from similar earlier sourcebooks that also aren't featured. Despite that, what is provided should help get the creative energies flowing for most DMs, I'd think, and overall, this is a nicely-presented work on its chosen theme.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Plants and Fungi of the Realms
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D&D Citizens: Dwarves
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2016 07:09:58

From the title's "Citizens", I was hoping for something beyond the mostly military options presented here. These folks are useful variants, certainly, but some mining specialists, skilled craftsfolk, smiths/armourers and creators of magical items would have been handy additions. And maybe also some children. Oddly, the arguably least combat-oriented character included, the Dwarf Curate, is also the only one without a short descriptive flavour paragraph.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Citizens: Dwarves
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Even More Orcs
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2016 06:53:21

Some nice ideas here. A useful expansion of the 5e MM Orcs, with a good range of CRs and short flavour-paragraph descriptions of the different varieties. I was looking for some lower-level orcish options beyond the 5e MM for a mass-combat attack on a barbarian encampment, and originally turned to my first-edition AD&D MM (back when most humanoid monsters got detailed tribal descriptions, from the numbers of young at home through to the ruler, guards and other important individuals). When I found this though, I gave up reworking those earlier orcs for 5e, as with a couple of extra home-brew variants, this is close to exactly what I was looking for!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Even More Orcs
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Shrine of the Harvest Goddess
Publisher: New Frontier Games
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2016 06:31:51

Exactly what it says it is - an unusual fantasy RPG location, described and mapped on 4 pages. It's unlikely there'll be any combat involved, so a true role-playing opportunity. While I'm sure that won't suit all RPGers, it's excellent to me!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shrine of the Harvest Goddess
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FR14 The Great Glacier (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2016 06:22:25

With a scanned product, there can be technical issues over its legibility. However, with this product, the problem seems primarily to have been with the original printed version, not how it was scanned. Dark grey print on a mottled grey background was probably never easy to read in a hard-copy book. It hasn't been improved by its electronic recreation here!

The text does though remain generally legible, barring a few places where you may have to guess, both on-screen and in printout forms, and the information in the book, including its colour maps, is essentially unique for this heavily ice-covered, frozen part of the D&D "Forgotten Realms" world. The setting is perhaps overly human-centric, with few new creatures presented, and just humans and arctic dwarves as races in this isolated region (so no orcs, a little odd, given how they thrive in hordes across much of the less-icy northern Forgotten Realm lands elsewhere).

Possibly too remote and cold a location for many gamers (maybe why the region seems never to have been revisited by subsequent editions of D&D), the excellent level and quantity of unique information in "The Great Glacier" easily warrants a 5-star rating. However, the difficulties in reading it because of its muddy original printing promote merely a 1-star view. Hence I've opted, in true D&D 5e form, for the mean in rating it here.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
FR14 The Great Glacier (2e)
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