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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Neil P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2016 18:09:29

I like this. While I don't play old school rules anymore (though I run old school campaigns) this was curious to me. It does what other OSR games do not: present something orginal instead of rewriting the same rules for the umpteenth time. Is it what Gygax would have done. Who knows, but probably not, though some seem like good guesses based on what he was writing otherwise. If you want to tun old school rules that have a different take, give it a try.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Steve K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2016 08:54:08

This is a great expansion on Gygax's AD&D. I love the additions of the mystic and mountebank specifically and incorporated them into my game.


My only real gripes are:


1) lack of a gutter for printing the pdf. A hole punch hits text. so unless you plan to stick it in a binder with plastic sheet protectors (big and bulky), you're kind of stuck with holes or using it only on your computer.


2) saving throw information being buried in the spell description. Not sure why the author didn't include it with the other data information at the start.


All in all a great product that has helped enhance my game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2015 23:48:29

Been a long time since I ran this, and I had to go back and skim through it again. You'd be surprised how much you can forget after a year or so -- especially when one has a castle & dungeon THIS large.


It's safe to say that you get a LOT of replay value! It's also safe to say that you'll get a good strong feeling of everything which worked in 1975 - without much of the ambiguity of Those Original Rules. In short, there is both meaning and madness in this setting, and each player will be rewarded for playing in character AND using player strategy. GMs will be rewarded if they study the background and extrapolate further developments - and plant many rumors.


PCs should learn of the rumors, especially, of the creator of this place. This can give them the advantage of guessing (it'll be no more than an educated guess) the meanings and motivations of the designer: the Mad Archmage. PCs should realize that madmen have reasons for what they do - even if the reasons make no sense to sane characters.


For instance, in a nod to That First Dungeon, the dungeon (and maybe the castle?) is still under construction. Signs of the construction crew's work - and maybe the crew themselves - may well hinder the players' characters.


Read the background, take plenty of light sources, and find places to sleep every night (or day) and your PCs may well finally meet that Mad Archmage. And if he makes any sense at all, I would like to hear about it.


This is a good solid adventure or series of adventures, which would easily get 5 stars. One star is deducted for not having the maps included withing the book. I have no problem with purchasing the maps separately (though I have, at other times, run games without using maps...let the PCs deal with the confusion and get lost) but it does annoy some young GMs. But they didn't live in 1975, when the gaming worlds in which we played were more dangerous and, frequently, unknown to even the gamesmaster.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book
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Publisher Reply:
In regards to the maps, they were originally included in the back of the book, but in playtesting, it was found that having to flip back and forth between the maps and the text just didn\'t work, on a practical level.
The Golden Scroll of Justice
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2015 11:47:47

Originally featured on the blog Halfling's Luck:


I'm a huge fan of Adventures Dark & Deep, published by BRW Games. It's the 2nd Edition I always wanted. So much so that,when I decided to do a major book purge, I chose to keep ADD over AD&D 2nd edition. When +Joseph Bloch announced that BRW Game was going to be releasing The Golden Scroll of Justice I was a bit disappointed. I thought to myself "Oh, great. Another Oriental Adventures-style supplement."


I'm not a huge fan of the original OA, nor am I a fan of most Asian fantasy RPGs. But that's because they're not really Asian. Instead, they're almost always a kind of pseduo-Japanese fantasy RPG. Now, don't get me wrong - that's all good and well, but I'm bored with ninjas and samurai being done over and and over again ad nauseam. Also, my personal preference was always for the more wuxia stylings of media like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or Hero. Wuxia isn't limited to foreign films. Tarantino's Kill Bill films and even John Carpenter's classic Big Trouble in Little China use the same themes and motifs in the modern day as told by western directors. Wuxia was about high adventure, mythic stories and a touch of the spiritual. Legends told with sweeping cinematography and wire-work. Legends brought to life in an exotic land. That was the Oriental Adventures I wanted, but I never quite got.


But I think the reason for that is that Wuxia films have a strong element of Chinese style and mythology to them - and this shows through in what the original Oriental Adventures both is and isn't. But what Bloch has done with The Golden Scroll of Justice is finally created a supplement that includes cleanly written, well organized rules for running Wuxia style campaigns or integrating elements of that into an existing campaign. While it's written for Adventures Dark and Deep - it can be easily adapted to fit any "Advanced" retro-clone out there.


Like Adventures Dark and Deep, The Golden Scroll of Justice doesn't give us a default setting. Instead it paints a collection of classes, races, skills, magic items, monsters and full rules for kung-fu in the themes and motifs of Chinese myth and Wuxia style in the same way that most fantasy RPGs are painted in the general theme of Euro-centric, pseudo-medieval fantasy. But there's something subtle going on in Bloch's text: The game never feels... bland. The rules and options in TGSoJ always remind you that you're in a badass time of legend and if you harness your Qi and hold to the Code of Xia, then honor and adventure await you.


The book itself is laid out in a manner exactly like Adventures Dark and Deep. Clean, crisp and concise. It's easy to read two-column format with black and white art that is thematically appropriate through out.


It begins with the introduction of two new races and one new variant on standard humans. The Shanxiao are humanoids with a fair resemblance to monkeys who live in private communities and seem to have a propensity for the more spiritual classes, while the Gouran are dog-headed and aggressive. I rather liked the Shanxiao, but found the Gouran to be a bit "thin" on their racial write-up. They seemed to offer nothing more than an attribute bonus and class restrictions, with no other racial abilities described. The third "race" listed is that of human eunuch. This is a bold choice on the part of the author and provides interesting insight into the implied society and culture of the setting.


Next up we get classes. Not a lot of time is spent adding new classes. Instead the focus is on addressing existing classes and what changes when they are put into a Mythic Chinese setting. Some classes, like the Bard are out and out removed - but most have a few small modifications. Monks are also addressed in detail, as one would expect, as are two new classes: The Wu and the Fangshi. The Wu is a kind of cleric sub-class that deals mostly with spirits and have a very earthy vibe about them. While the Fangshi are more alchemists and astrologers. At first glance, both classes seem to be simple re-skins of existing classes (cleric and magic-user, respectively), but when the reader takes a look at their spell list that's where the flavor of both Wu and Fangshi really begins to shine.


Next up is Secondary Skills and this is where GSoJ really starts to shine. Adventures Dark and Deep has a really innovative skill system and the new skills provided are just fantastic. While it might seem silly to include skills like Acupuncture, Feng Shiu, and Qigong, Bloch includes them in a way that evokes the feel of old Wuxia films in clear, simple rules that just heaps on the flavor while adding new and interesting touches to a character. This is closed with a brief touch on social class, literacy and money. Once thing that I am very pleased by is the fact that Bloch did not convert the equipment in the book to a thematic currency. Conversions are just a pain in the ass and gold pieces are an arbitrary place-holder than can easily be renamed.


The equipment section is very, very extensive and provides all manner of unique items suitable to the flavor that permeates the rest of the book. Everything from silk robes to fireworks are covered - and yes, there is a plethora of new weapons. I am pleased to announce that there is no katana listing. Bloch is really focused on Chinese themes here and keeps his attention there.


Next we come to the Kung-Fu mechanics for GSoJ. Let's face it: unarmed combat in D&D (regardless of edition), has never been stellar. What's done here is Bloch has expanded his Secondary Skill system to include different martial arts styles. Each style has three tiers that are become not only more expensive (in XP) to learn, but also more difficult to find a master who is willing or able to teach the style. At each level of skill the player is provided with one option that can be used without a skill check and another that can be used if the character succeeds in a skill check. While initially I felt this felt a bit like a "feat" system from D&D 3.X, when I read the mechanics as a whole I realized that the amount of work it would take a character to advance in more than one style was ridiculously difficult and in this, it prevented a player from having to remember a plethora of combat options. The rules seem written with the implicit belief that most characters who learn Kung-Fu will probably never learn more than one style over the lifetime of their character. In addition, Bloch's Kung-Fu rules do not limit themselves to just hand-to-hand combat. Several styles allow or even require the use of specific weapons - which is a nice change. My only problem with the Kung-Fu rules is the the absence of Drunken Monkey style. C'mon, Joe - DRUNK MONKEYS ARE AWESOME AND YOU KNOW IT.


Next we have magic. This includes a list of several pages of new spells and a basic presentation of Chinese cosmology. The new spells reflect that cosmology very well and as previously stated really strengthen the flavor of the Wu and Fangshi classes. They feel balanced as well.


A brief primer on running a Mythic Chinese themed campaign is provided. Five pages review the themes of the Wuxia genre as well as the tropes and tradition of Wuxia stories. This is a really good read for both players and referees alike as it gets to the heart of how GSoJ differs from other Asian fantasy supplements out there.


A dozen pages of new magic items are included and some of them are really cool. From the Coin Sword to the Pill of Immortality (Yes, it's exactly what you think it is... almost), these are flavorful items that, for the most part, don't feel like re-skins of magic items we saw in the original Adventures Dark and Deep core rules.


The book begins to wind down with a 25-page bestiary of monsters, most of which are taken from Chinese mythology. Included as well are seconds addressing devils, demons and of course, dragons. My personal favorite were the Long-Armed People, which is something really bizarre and unique that I'd never encountered or heard of.


The final pages of GSoJ feature three Appendices. Appendix A is a reprint of the unarmed combat rules from the Adventures Dark and Deep Player's Manual. Appendix B provides updated Armor Type vs. Weapon Type. This isn't my thing, but it's a nice touch, given the arsenal of new weapons in the book. The final (and for me, most important) Appendix features inspirational material - both books and film.


The Golden Scroll of Justice clocks in at 114 pages, but it feels bigger because there is a lot packed into these pages. The magic of this book for me is the fact that it does something that no other fantasy RPG supplement has done (in my eyes): It gave Asian classes and culture the same psuedo-historic grounding that had previously been provided to traditional European fantasy gaming. They finally feel like they came from somewhere and that grounding makes me a lot more comfortable intergrating monks and other mythic themes of the east into an existing fantasy campaign.


Could you use GSoJ to run a traditional "Oriental Adventures" type game? Sure, but you'd be wasting a lot of this book's potential. Instead, use its fully realized sense of mythology to integrate a far off culture in pieces, whispers, hints and light touches into your existing campaign so that finally the Middle Kingdom that never was can have a place in the history of your campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Golden Scroll of Justice
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Ingvar G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2015 16:37:33

I got the Hardcover version and I was not disappointed. The breadth of monster variety made me want to do adventures I had not previously considered. I will be using this book for my games for a long time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 16:56:03

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!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2015 16:55:18

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!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Character Sheet
by Michael K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/17/2015 12:56:14

The character sheet was well laid out, with key information easy to find and enough space to enter it. The area for stats was larger than it needed to be, but the area for spells was smaller than I like, because I like to include notes about range, duration, damage, etc. Still usable to create a simple list with a few notes, by writing small. 4 stars out of 5.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Character Sheet
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
by Ben F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2015 22:27:11

I started off my tabletop RPG experience like many other gamers, with AD&D 1e. Since then, I have played a multitude of systems ranging from rules heavy (HERO) all the way to super rules light (PDQ), but something was always missing from my RPG experience. My gaming group has been with me for years, with me as their GM, and we have been trying for some time now to truly get the old school feeling back to our games. Then I stumbled across Adventures Dark and Deep, which perfectly recreates the feeling of 1e with a menagerie of new content such as new classes and sub-races. After character creation alone, it is apparent the similarities with AD&D 1e, and from there it is an amazing game. I absolutely love it!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
by Dominique C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2014 02:23:21

This is truly the best OSR monster book I got so far. Everything is in there, and there is an old-school-style black and white illustration for most of the monsters. Overall it looks great, and I prefer it to the original monster books it emulates. Someday I will probably get it in print too.


I am the publisher of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. I would recommend this monster book to those who use my game and want to know which monsters to use. They would fit very well. I intend to later publish a monster book of my own, but this one will still nicely complete what I intend to do.


There is one thing I don't like though: you need Acrobat Reader 10 to read it. With version 9 and below it simply doesn't open at all. My opinion is that a PDF file bought on RPGnow should be readable with most older versions of Acrobat Reader. I don't see why you should have the latest technology to read files. There should be no obligation to upgrade your computers (I can read it on my PC, but I cannot have Acrobat Reader 10 on my old macintosh) to be able to read the file purchased here.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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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.c-
om/2013/10/review-adventures-dark-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 Game Masters Toolkit
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2013 13:54:12

Originally posted here:
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2-
013/10/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.co-
m/2013/10/review-adventures-dark-and-deep-players.html
p>

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.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
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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/20-
13/10/review-adventures-dark-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.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
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