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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/18/2013 12:20:27
Originally posted at: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-dar-
k-and-deep-bestiary.html

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard. While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise. Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters. This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/16/2013 14:16:36
Originally Posted here:

http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-
-dark-and-deep-players.html

Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual is the first major release from BRW Games and the first major release of what is the Adventures Dark & Deep game. Again, a lot of what I have said about
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is true here. Including how this was the result of a particularly successful Kickstarter that shipped early.

The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR. Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar. Unlike the previous book, the Player Manual makes no assumptions that you have AD&D1 or OSRIC. There are some obvious roots in those games, but this is now it's own thing.

Like most Player's books this one concentrates much of it's text on creating characters.
There is the obligatory sections on how to use the dice and then how to generate ability scores. In a difference from this game and it's spiritual cousin AD&D 2nd ed, we still have exceptional strength. Also all the ability score tables go to 25. Humans (and most PCs) still rank 3-18.
The same six ability scores are here. Interestingly enough, not Comeliness. I thought that would have made the cut.

Races are covered. Again the same ones we have seen before. But thats the point isn't it? This a AD&D2 as if Gary had created it. So there are a lot of elements in common here with AD&D 1 and 2 plus older versions. We do get a Dark Elf (not a Drow) and Half-Orc. It would take a critical eye to see the differences here between Adventures Dark & Deep and say OSRIC.

Classes include the new and the old.
From A Curious Volume we have: the Bard, Jester, Mystic, Savant, Thief-Acrobat, Mountebank
From the classic sources we have: the Paladin, Cleric, Druid (topping out at 15th level), Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Mage, Illusionist, Thief
And new to this volume we have: the Cavalier, Vates (Druids of 15th level and higher).
The Assassin is listed in the Appendix.
Classes are grouped into Class and Sub-class like AD&D1/2 but not like OSRIC. So all in all 17 (18) classes. Not bad really.

The Alignment system is the same as *D&D.

Secondary Skills is pretty much the same as what is found in A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Same with the Monthly Expenses which is now part of Social Class.

The next big section is Combat which includes the standard D&D style combat we all know and the additional material from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Morale is back in this edition, sort of like it was in Basic and AD&D2. There is a nice section on item saving throws. I have seen similar ones over the years, but this one seems fairly complete.

The next section is Magic.
It includes the making of magic items, learning spells and even an optional rule on sacrifice. The bulk though is devoted to spells.
The Spells are listed by class and level, but all the spells are alphabetical. There are 118 pages of spells, so roughly what you would expect from OSRIC and A Curious Volume. I see about 6-7 spells per page, so maybe close to 650 spells. There could also be more, but I did not check every single one. The spells are are written in a way that makes them compatible with pretty much every other OSR-style book out there.

Appendix A covers the Assassin class.
Appendix B covers weapons vs. various Armor types. A very Gygaxian holdover. As opposed to vs. AC, this is actually the type of armor. I like it and it makes sense. I am thinking of using this in my own old school game to be honest.
Appendix C covers combat tables.

The book does capture the feel of old D&D with some interesting twists. None that would trip you up, but still enough to make you go "huh, that is kind of neat".

The art is nice and still invokes that Old-School feel without looking dated.

The PDF is copy/paste restricted, but not print restricted. Which is good because I want to print that Appendix B. The physical book is nice and sturdy and at 257 pages it is a decent sized book. It compares well to the AD&D 2nd Ed Player's Handbook to be honest.

It is a nice book.

So who should get this book?
Well if you like the OSR or enjoy AD&D then this is a good choice. It is a better "game" than OSRIC is. I say "game" because OSRIC isn't a game as much as a reference to a game you already know how to play.

If you have A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore and OSRIC then yes you could re-create this book on your own. But part of the utility of this book is that all of that information is in one volume.

It is worth it for the new classes and spells too.

I like it because it is a well researched "What If" experiment, much like Spellcraft & Swordplay (what if D&D continued using the default combat roll) and B/X Companion (what if the Companion rules had come out for B/X and not BECMI). We will never know what Gygax's 2nd Ed would have been like. In a way, really we don't need to know. 2e was fine and Adventures Dark & Deep is here now.
It is perfectly playable and fun.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/15/2013 14:25:49
Originally posted here: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-dar-
k-deep-curious.html

A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is the first of Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep books. It is presented as an add-on or supplement to OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord or any other "Old School" game. But its roots are obviously in AD&D 1st edition.

The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR. Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar.
At a modest 140 or so pages, this book packs in a lot.

We begin with some level limits of some newer races. By newer I mean ones that did not appear in the Player's Handbook/OSRIC.

We quickly move into classes. First up it should be noted is a usable Bard class. No more advancing as a thief, fighter and then druid to get to the bard, this is a straight out bard class. Already makes it worth it. The bard also has some nice powers too. I will be honest, when playing in my "old school" games this is the Bard I look to the most often now.
We also get a Jester class, which is nice because it is one of those classes I remember Gygax talking about wanting to use all the time. Same with the Mountebank.
The mystic class seems closer to the BECMI/RC version than it does to the monk. Which is fine by me really.
The last class is a savant, another one I recall reading about back in the day. This one is more of your occult investigator/sage with some magic type.

So far as a "class book" it is shaping up real nice. Lots of ones I'd like to try out and they fill niches that /could/ be filled by other classes, but they make it their own.

The next section is on Secondary Skills, which seems to refine the system in AD&D, but not quite a full blown skill system. Very much in the vein of "your class is what you do, but you have this extra thing" philosophy.
We end up the characters section with monthly expenses and starting ages.

The next section is on combat with an alternate combat system. Again I seem to recall talk of such a thing, but it is more vague in my memory that the classes.
The system is detailed and should appeal to anyone that like more flavor to their AD&D combat.

We get a page on Social Encounters.
Next is an expanded Treasure listing and a section on ships and waterborne adventures. Something I could have used at the close of my AF&F 1st ed games to be honest.

The next 25 pages are dedicated to magic including a number of new spells for the new spell casting classes.

The Game Master's section is next, though it is not specifically called that.
New dungeon hazards are covered and then we get to magic item descriptions.

We end with some new monsters which include various Angels, Demons and some dragons.

All in all this is a good addition to the AD&D/OSRIC/LL-Advanced game. Even if you don't use everything here there is enough to make it worth your while.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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The Treasure of Welthorp
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/19/2013 08:18:50
This is really rather fun! The characters have come into possession of a well-provenanced treasure map (never mind how) and head off eagerly to the remote valley it depicts to go dig the treasure up.

Only... there's a prosperous little village on the very spot they are heading for... and none of the locals know anything about any treasure! At least, they don't know what they know. Well, they'd have been digging the place up had they known anything was to be had.

The characters will have to follow what clues they have or can unearth, more like archaeologists than adventurers. Of course, it's vital that they don't tip the villagers off as to what they are after, else they'll all become treasure-hunters too and start digging...

This is an adventure where it is genuinely possible to achieve your goal without a single round of combat! Naturally, the party may provoke a brawl or you may choose to provide one if you know your players will be unhappy without some combat... but it can be interesting, even for the scrappiest players, to sometimes face a challenge where fighting will not get them what they are after.

The GM will have to think things through carefully, to ensure that clues are found without making it too obvious. Various locations and people are described and the clues to be found are detailed clearly, but it is left to you to decide how to let the characters find each one out. Of course, there's some misdirection too and if they follow the wrong clue they will end up digging a hole that will only result in the ire of whoever's flowerbed it is in the middle of!

Have fun with this unusual little caper.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Treasure of Welthorp
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The Treasure of Welthorp
by Jeremy Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2013 03:01:54
This module was essentially written as part of the ill fated Dwimmermount campaign as part of the stretch goals, the author (known for his Adventures Dark & Deep) kindly offered to write an adventure detailing one of the treasure maps found in Dwimmermount. I imagine most people expected a mini-dungeon, instead it's essentially a write up of a small town and a treasure hunt.

It's actually a very interesting idea, I was a little disappointed not to get a dungeon, but the end result is extremely clever and charming. It does have flaws though - it's rather sketchy, the npcs don't have really any physical description or in most cases, even a personality, just name and age. It's suggested that some of the NPCs befriend the PCs, but without that information it's more difficult to. I also would have liked some adventure hooks for the village beyond this adventure, as well as reactions or aftermath of the townsfolk to the PC finding the adventure.

There really isn't any combat involved except for a rival group also looking for the treasure, which seems a little forced.

3 pages are devoted to a rather strange use of the OGL. It seems to include every monster from the Tome of Horrors, so the Section 15 of the OGL goes on and on and on. Yet strictly speaking, the product does not use any items not found in the SRD, so that was really unnecessary. Beyond that, as the copyright owner of Adventures Dark and Deep, he didn't need to use the OGL to use his own material, it's only needed when using other people's material. But it's rather a moot point because the open content declaration says there is no open content in the product (which strictly isn't true, by using the OGL, all things derived from the SRD are open content, essentially the stats)

So basically, it's really a 6 page module in total, with 3 pages for maps (1 treasure map, 1 player map and 1 DM map that is the same only keyed). As a freebie it's pretty neat, but I'm not sure it's worth $2.49. 99 cents, sure.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/01/2012 06:18:18
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/01/tabletop-review-adventu-
res-dark-and-deep-a-curious-volume-of-forgotten-lore/

Back in March of this year, I, along with 243 other Gygaxians took part in a Kickstarter to fund Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. It was quite successful, garnering Joseph (who I always want to call Robert) Bloch three times the money he was looking for. I’ll admit I’m not the most diehard D&D fan on the planet even though I’ve written for both the TSR and WotC versions of the game. I always gravitated more towards Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu and Vampire: The Masquerade as a kid, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love D&D. I remember combing through old issues of Dragon magazine, reading the Wilderness Survival Guide and Oriental Adventures with apt fascination and enjoy the game books about D&D even though playing it wasn’t as fun as my big three (mainly due to who I knew that played each game as a kid). Adventures Dark & Deep became the first D&D based Kickstarter I’ve funded out of the eighty-odd projects I’ve given money to. I’m still not sure what drew me to it exactly. Perhaps it was the premise of Mr. Bloch trying to piece together things written by the late, great E. Gary Gygax to present what his version of Second Edition AD&D might look like had he not “left” TSR in 1985 that intrigued me. Perhaps I just liked the play on anagrams with both titles (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons/Adventures Dark and Deep = AD&D.). Whatever the reason, I knew I wanted to be a part of this project, even if it was just financially.

On July 27th, the PDF version of the book (which was the level I had backed at arrived by a link to RPGNow.com. By the evening of the 28th, I had read the entire book twice. I have to say that I’m looking forward to seeing the next few ADandD products Mr. Bloch puts out. Although there’s a lot in this book that I would never personally use in my own AD&D campaign and other information I felt was mostly retread or stuff that has already been covered repeatedly, Mr. Bloch’s writing style and the entire book really did look, feel and read like it was straight out the TSR brain trust in the late 70s/early 80s. So while a good part of the book isn’t something that will ever see the light of day in any D&D or OSR campaign that I personally partake in, it was still both entertaining and informative to read. I was definitely hit with strong waves of nostalgia through both my reads of this tome.

Before going into the content proper, I do want to state the artwork in A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, all done by Brian “Glad” Thomas” is excellent. Again, the images feel like they were ripped straight out of old TSR manuals (and even a bit of Dragonmirth from the old Dragon magazine). From the cover image that is both comical and dramatic to the black and white interior pictures, I was hit with images how D&D used to look and how much I missed that style. Kobolds reminiscent of dogs rather that dragonpeople? Beautiful. I especially loved Glad’s trolls as they were exactly the ones I remembered from my childhood. Bloch made a great choice for the artist and I really hope Brian Thomas returns for the other Adventures Dark and Deep books.

So what’s in Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore? Well a lot. Besides a great deal of content, there are tables for everything the book covers. So many random tables! If you had any doubts that this book would be true to the spirit of 1e AD&D, all you need is to see the sheer volume of tables contained therein. There are also five new characters for the game: The Bard, The Jester, the Mountebank, the Mystic and the Savant. All of these classes are fairly interesting, but I can’t see too many people actually choosing one as their character class.

You might be stating to yourself, “but the Bard WAS in both first and second edition AD&D.” That’s true, but remember, First Edition’s Bard class was a terrible mess in every way possible and the Second Edition Bard isn’t necessarily in line with what Gygax’s retooling of the bard would be. Bloch’s Bard is still a mix of mage and thief classes, but with some new skills like Distract, Listen at Doors and Slight of Hand thrown in. As well, Bloch’s Bard has spells that are a mix of Druid, Mage, Illusionist and Cleric spells, making them a little more versatile. At the same time Bardic magic occurs through music, and so it is handled quite differently from the AD&D 2e Bard. Finally, Bards learn spells through listening to other bards, both friends and foe. This makes a rather unique way for studying magic.

The Jester was a class brought up once or twice in Dragon magazine, although generally as an April’s Fool’s joke. Although the magazine did contain full character class rules, like the Bard, Bloch has completely retooled the Jester for this book. Here the Jester is a sub-class of the Bard who engages in pranks and verbal banter. It’s a bit akin to the Thief-Acrobat from Unearthed Arcana but with more pratfalls. I like that two of the Jester’s equivalent to thief skills are Fire Breathing and Knife Throwing, but I can’t see the class really worth playing as and I especially didn’t like that the Jester can learn up to Fourth Level spells, including things like Fireball, Lightning Bolt and Stone to Flesh. These don’t fit the theme of the character (or any Jester really) at all.

The Mountebank is a specific type of thief, specifically a con man or trickster. It’s a nice change from the all-purpose Rogue, but it is a bit redundant. Still, it’s one of the two classes I liked best in the book and probably the one I’d be most likely to play. My big complaint is that like every class in this book, the Mountebank gets access to magic spells at some point. Every class shouldn’t be able to cast spells. There’s just too much magic being handed out to the new classes here.

The Mystic is a Cleric sub-class and the other class that I really like. It feels more like an Eastern holy person than the Western one typified by the usual Cleric. I also like how certain spells such as the Crystal Magic and Awaken Chakra series stack. It’s the most balanced class of the five and I especially enjoyed some of the optional abilities like taking a vow of silence in exchange for extra EX and losing the verbal requirement for all spells.

The final class introduced here is the Savant and it’s a really odd duck. First, the minimum starting age for a Savant is roughly twice all other classes in D&D games. Meaning you’re likely to have a First Level Savant be in their mid thirties to early forties when other characters are in their late teens are early twenties. I get that the savant is basically a sage, but the age restriction doesn’t make sense for what you get with the class. After all, a fifth level Magic-User will have more power and knowledge than a beginning Savant and a fraction of their age to boot. You’re definitely better off with the Magic-User or Illusionist if you’re playing a D&D game than with this class. The Savant is a pretty good idea, but it really needed to be retooled a bit as it really just feels like a weaker mage that can read Druid, Cleric and Mystic scrolls at higher levels. That’s not really all that impressive.

So two of the classic are quite good, one it a bust and two are…okay. Not bad all things considering.

Next up is a new version of Secondary Skills. In Second Edition AD&D, this was something optional that you rolled for on a chart and you basically had that knowledge and skill set starting out, never to be touched again. With Forgotten Lore, you don’t start with any secondary skill (then what did your character do before they became a mage or paladin?). Instead you purchase the skills with experience points, which I really detest the idea of. Perhaps it’s from childhood experience with the American version of Lunar 2 for the Sega-CD, but I’ve learned that any time you are forced to purchase something with experience points, it’s a bad thing. Especially when it’s something not necessarily all that helpful in-game like the version of secondary skills put forth here. Hmm, I could gain another level, or I could be slightly better at making armour or courtly intrigue. Considering early AD&D was more roll-playing than role-playing, this system doesn’t work for me. I do like the ability to gain new levels in Secondary Skills, but again, the spending of experience points is a concept I just really strongly dislike. Plus, how do you explain it in-game? “Well, my killing of this dragon meant that I was suddenly better at crafting necklaces rather than fighting?” It just doesn’t work for me at all. I do love the Secondary Skills presented here, but I’d definitely retool the system to have you start off with a level in one at Level 1 and then gain a new level in the skill you already have or a new one every three to five levels or so.

There are a lot of little concepts presented throughout the book that I had fun with, such as a reminder about cost of living upkeep for characters – which is something a lot of DMs forget about. This is ingrained in me as a Shadowrun player so whenever I’ve DM’d, I’d made this something my D&D players had to partake in. Bloch really does have a great eye for the little but still no less important details that so many gamers sadly overlook.

There’s a very long and detailed section of the book devoted to what is called an “Alternate Combat System,” but there’s nothing dramatically different from the usual “THACO” style of gameplay. There’s a bit devoted to helmets for AC, weapon proficiencies and two-weapon fighting, but all of these are things covered in TSR made D&D books, both 1e and 2e, so I’m not sure why Bloch devotes space to them here. Things like a giant list of melee weapons and detailed descriptions of them are already in Player Handbooks, so they weren’t really needed here. It’s all stuff gamers practically know by heart. I would have excised this entire section for something else. It’s almost as if this section was written for people that have never played D&D before AT ALL. I think we all know when to roll Saving Throws, that a scimitar does 1d8 damage and so on. I did like the Unarmed Combat bits as well as the adjusting armour class based on what type of weapon was being used against it, but the chart for the latter is a little too extreme. The idea works just as well if you simplified it to bludgeoning, slashing and piercing rather than a break out for several dozen different weapons.

I do like the concept and follow through of the “Alternate Treasure Method” which breaks hordes down into things like jewelry, paintings and more specific tangibles that force parties to think about what they are going to do. After all, it’s quite hard to carry out 10,000 copper pieces from the 10th level of a dungeon. It’s also hard in a different way to abscond with a large painting that is as fragile as it is valuable. This section has a ton of tables that detail everything from breaking down sundries to various furs. It’s so in-depth it’s a bit frightening. I also really liked how the game brings up that selling treasures generally doesn’t net you the full value of something. Ever sold something to a pawn shop or reseller? You don’t get what you paid for it, even if it’s in perfect condition. The same holds for going to a fencer in a fantasy game. Again, another incredible eye for detail that a lot of manuals and DMS both overlook.

The next section is a wonderful bit on waterborne travel, combat and encounters. I’ve always loved water based adventures so this was a real treat to me. That section is then followed up by a large compilation of new magic spells. It’s almost thirty pages long and details new magic spells for the five new character classes. From there we move on to “The Game Environment” which basically gives DM advice about various locales and situations. A lot of it is common sense that anyone who has dabbled in D&D should know, but I enjoyed the wilderness and underwater bits. I was a bit thrown by having leprosy being a worse disease than mummy rot or lycanthropy and that the bloody thing is almost untreatable. I’m not sure the reasoning behind doing this as I’m sure someone, somewhere will take offense. My favorite part of this section was the bits on natural disasters. Concepts like exploding volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, tidal waves and tornados are, once again, common enough real world events that most DMs never think about and so it’s nice to have something for them.

The penultimate section of the book is devoted to magic items. Almost all of this has been seen before. Many of these items are ripped straight from other D&D books and the section on intelligent weapons will be equally familiar to most of you. I’d rather have seen these pages devoted to all new magic items rather than a retread of items that already exist in the D&D world and reworked tables for them.

The final section is “Monsters” and I have to admit, although I liked the optional rule of giant (and larger) creatures doing additional damage, I was little creeped out by eight and a half pages being devoted to the Judeo-Christian angels. Now I don’t have a problem with the concept of angels in role playing games at all. It’s that Bloch uses actual Judeo-Christian angels like Gabriel, Metatron, Michael and more in the game. I think this is going to definitely offend someone, somewhere. I think religion in fantasy role-playing games are best left to either dead Earth religions or completely made-up ones. When you start having Jesus fighting Takhisis or act out a battle where Shiva and Allah are killed by Vecna, you are just opening a door to stupidity that is very hard to close. This was just an all-around very bad idea that would have the potential of earning itself a “Dark Dungeons” style Chick tract if this was a more mainstream release. Besides this major faux pas, the other monsters are interesting, but nothing groundbreaking. Some new giants, some poisonous coral (?!), a few new dragons, a lot of pages devoted to gnomes and men and a narwhal. Odd selections overall, but worth flipping through.

In all, Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is a fun read for any fan of old school AD&D and its retro-clone spin-offs. The mileage you will actually get from this book will vary greatly depending on who you game with and more importantly HOW you game. Even though I personally would only use a fraction of this book in an AD&D game that I’d run, it’s still a very well written book well worth the ten dollar asking price of the PDF. Even if you never use anything directly from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, there are still some interesting ideas worth reading about (or debating/discussing with your gaming friends), some wonderful art to look at and some well thought out ideas that most campaigns never even think of, but probably should. At the end of the day, I’m glad I helped in some very small way to bring A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore into print and if you’re a fan of games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord and any other homage/tribute/rip-off of first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, seriously consider picking up this first Adventures Dark and Deep offering. You won’t be disappointed and I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next from BRW Games.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
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A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2012 16:37:26
This volume does what is sets out to do: explore ideas to expand AD&D based on hints from Gary Gygax prior to his ill-fated devorce settlement, when his huberous got the best of him and he gave up controlling interest in TSR in favor of the D&D series and film rights.
The best part of this book is the new class options, the first 24 pages. The most interesting of these is the mountebank, a Cudgle the Cleaver meets Han Solo type, and the Jester, basically turning any character into a Kender. These classes expand roleplaying possibilities with concepts like verbal patter, also key to the version of the bard presented here. There are strict spell casting classes too, most notably the mystic, a Taoist type. I'm not crazy about the secondary skills system because I don't like a lot of number crunching, but it is very Gygax. It's very much like the one he wrote for Castles & Crusades, using an experience point purchasing system. The combat system gives various options for adding complexity to combat. My favorite is the percentage chance of causing friendly fire in missile combat, which I don't remember from AD&D. There's also stuff here for dealing with various environments, at least as usefull, probably more so, than the post Gygax Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides. I apprieciate the expanded waterborne combat, as a lot of OSR material tends to neglect it. The new monsters are Judeo-Christian extra planer-- choirs of angels and various demons. BRW Games strategically released this the same week as the Commemorative Edition AD&D books. I want the hard cover of A Curious Volume for the mountebank class alone. The best part of the book is that the options are modular. Take or leave what you want.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
by Orson L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/11/2011 15:14:21
As an old school gamer I like products like this. The basic premise of 'what would the 2nd edition of AD&D have looked like if Gygax stayed on at TSR and was in charge", is neat and plausable to me as presented here. Though one very important part of this thinking that wasn't addressed (in my humble opinion), is what would Gygax have done to bring the Unearthed Arcana material into better compatability with the earlier Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. Not to be nit picky though, I like the product but I probably won't use it for gaming, because its so close to the original, I'll just stick with Gygax's published AD&D when running a 1st AD&D game. A side note: I like alot the Necromancer, which I will use!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
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xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
by Rob N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2011 21:09:48
Truly, Adventures Dark and Deep is a step forward and a superb product. While the evolution and changes of AD&D to ADD is often subtle, the rules are smoother and much more playable for newer people. If you're not a newer player to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, then ADD will run beautifully and gel perfectly with your current game. Even in playtest form it's definitely a massive step forward, if you know where to look within for where the developments are. It can only get better going forward.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
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xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
by Rob N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2011 21:09:38
Truly, Adventures Dark and Deep is a step forward and a superb product. While the evolution and changes of AD&D to ADD is often subtle, the rules are smoother and much more playable for newer people. If you're not a newer player to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, then ADD will run beautifully and gel perfectly with your current game. Even in playtest form it's definitely a massive step forward, if you know where to look within for where the developments are. It can only get better going forward.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
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xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
by Rob N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2011 21:06:47
While the evolution and changes of AD&D to ADD is often subtle, the rules are smoother and much more playable for newer people. If you're not a newer player to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, then ADD will run beautifully and gel perfectly with your current game. Even in playtest form it's definitely a massive step forward, if you know where to look within for where the developments are. It can only get better going forward.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
xxx Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary (Open Playtest Version 1.1)
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Darker Paths 2: The Witch
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2011 13:17:11
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other. In the end I think I just need to review the product as is. Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D. Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales. This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book. These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example. There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom. Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level. Interesting. I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one. It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid. She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons. Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars. A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book. Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here. There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).
Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book. In the end this is a very good evil witch class. It does make me wonder how the author might do a good witch.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Darker Paths 2: The Witch
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Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2011 11:56:59
The Necromancer is the first in a set of alternate classes for the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG. Adventures Dark and Deep is an interesting "what if" experiment in gaming. The what if here is "what if Gary Gygax had not left TSR and headed the development of the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Based on interviews, publications of the man himself at the time, and a healthy dose of conjecture, we get a game that is familiar yet new at the same time.
The Necromancer is one of the more popular "alternate classes" developed for any fantasy RPG. Almost always an alternate class and never a core one, the necromancer is the ultimate foe in many games or the ultimate PC in others. But as long as horror and undead are popular in game, then the necromancer is right there with them.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer packs a lot of punch in a small book. At only 24 pages, we get a new class, a "new" race and 75 new spells. No small feat really. The material is for the Adventures Dark and Deep game, but it certainly can be used with any retro-clone, near-clone or any other game that emulate AD&D 1st ed or Basic D&D. The art is mixed, but very evocative of the era. Some new pieces and some public domain works (and it looks like the editor did his research too).
If you like Necromancers and play an older edition of the game, whether an honest older edition or a newer clone, then this is a good choice.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
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