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Barrowmaze Complete
by Daren C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2017 17:57:50

I wrote this up on my blog so I thought I'd share it here:

DOOM IN THE DARK Careful exploration, sudden traps, overwhelming foes, a ready shovel and sledgehammer. Torchbearers running screaming into the darkness. It's the Barrowmaze. This dungeon has helped facilitate a classic "Old School" style of campaign unlike any other I've run. It is perfect for short episodic sessions online using a traditional D&D ruleset. Using the magic of Roll20 and Google Hangouts my friends and I are nine sessions or so into a nicely emerging campaign.

I mostly run Type V D&D because that's the game people know; it's the new and shiny, but I've been reading ORS gaming blogs for years, wondering if that sort of mythical "old school" dirtbag style of play would really work for me. It requires a different set of assumptions than a more heroic high magic style game.

A few months back I picked up the 261page megadungeon Barrowmaze Complete via the Kickstarter for the forthcoming sequel. I'd been thinking about it for years and the magic of Kickstarter hype got me to pull the trigger. That and the epic cartoon trailer.

Barrowmaze makes a great set up for this style game, it's a complete campaign setting: Starting in a dirty little village on the edge of a backwater duchy, the dungeon delvers wake at dawn to make their way to Barrow Moore, where ancient barrow mounds hide entrances to a sprawling maze beneath. The goal is to get in and out with a bit of treasure, get back to town and spend it on carousing!

EPISODIC One of the really nice design decisions of the Barrowmaze is that it is a single level, with multiple points of entry. The bane of big dungeons is that the whole thing can get bogged down when the characters are trapped in the dungeon, unable to recover and unable to vary the play over multiple sessions. The way Barrowmaze works out is that the players discover more entrances the further East they go, deeper into the surface map. Some entrances are discovered from the surface. Others have been discovered as an escape from below. On the whole, it makes for a nice session, into the dungeon, back out, makes some carousing roles, count up XP. There is a bit of a story to the Barrowmaze, but its secondary to the players' story. That said, this dungeon can be defeated, and it would be pretty satisfying to do so!

A PROCEDURAL GAME Wandering monster rolls are crucial to this dungeon. Loud noise triggers rolls. And it creates a time pressure. Should they break down that wall or move on? Should they search through all the burial nooks? Wandering monsters can add up quick as well, and players have fled from an encounter with Sapphire Skeletons or Coffer Corpses ("They just won't die!"). This is a dungeon that is enhanced by keeping track of time, torches, and rations.

EVERYTHING IN IT'S RIGHT PLACE The book is pretty self-contained. Most of the monsters featured have descriptions and stats (for Labyrinth Lord which works fine for my rules) in the back of the book, as do magic items and key spells. Tables for treasures, dungeon dressing, rival tomb robbers, and re-stocking are included as well. Best of all, there is a large section of handout art to show players for particular rooms and encounters. I've always really like these sort of additions. Of course, the art is really good.

HOT STYLE The writing and art direction are really great. The visual theme on a whole makes me think of a cartoon version of death metal album. The writing is brief, useful and friendly. There's a bunch of sidebars telling stories of the author's games, which is amusing and serves to highlight the intended play style. The illustrations are all black and white, heavily inked drawings. It's mostly very useable, with illustrations of the things you want to be able to show players.

EXCEPT A FEW THINGS... Overall, this is a book I was able to sit down and run multiple games with hardly any preparation, so the book is obviously organized well enough, but I have a couple of quibbles. There's a few funny decisions on organization. The special rules for things like barrow exploration and runic tablets are sort of buried in the book, just before the Barrow Mounds section. It makes sense to read, but in play I wish is was collated in an appendix in the back. The other quibble is with the dungeon entrances, or rather the exits. The Barrow Mounds section clearly states where each stair down appears in the maze, but sometimes I have players discover an entrance from below, and the map has no indication of what mound # it goes up to. So, the DM makes some notes.

The maps are simple and mostly clear. I did run into a moment last session where the group unexpectedly made it to room 100, which which nicely spans the gutter of the book. In the moment it was hard to figure that one out! The map is a huge sprawling affair that spans six pages, but in the book it is divided into slightly themed sections, with limited travel from one to another. The result of this is that each section could be taken out and used as it's own small dungeon complex in your own campaign world. It also means you can wrap your head around a particular constellation of foes if you know where your players are heading next session.

THE PLAYS THE THING There's been some criticism about the price of this product. It is overpriced, and indeed that held me back for a long time despite really liking what I saw in terms of style and design. Through play I've found that I've used this book more than many rpg products I've bought, so I consider it well worth it in the end. Any rpg book is worth it if you actually play it a lot! I've been continually stoked on playing in this dungeon and hope to keep it up for awhile yet!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
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Barrowmaze Complete
by Greg W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2015 21:50:38

Introduction [This review is spoiler-free, as regards story, monsters, and NPCs. However, a few villages will be generically described, and the number of dungeon locations will be given.]

I ordered Barrowmaze Complete on 5/16/2015 and received it via USPS ten days later. The binding is of the highest quality, apparently the same binding that existed for the Kickstarter copies. Some images of the product are at the following links (or just search for “Barrowmaze Complete” on Google images):

http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=69622 http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=58367&start=30#p1588647

The above images match my product exactly.

Gazetteer The Gazetteer for the surrounding towns and settlements, new to this ‘Complete’ product, is excellent. The geography includes 3 settlements, 3 rivers, 3 forests, a very large swamp, and a mountain range, all indicated via text description and hex map. The three settlements are Bogtown (village), Ironguard Motte (town plus castle), and Helix (village). The first two are detailed in a page or two each, whereas Helix is very detailed - at least eight pages of text description - and includes a village map with numbered locations. This is important, because Helix will be the PCs main base camp as they travel to and from the Barrowmaze. About forty NPCs are described across these three settlements (with handy pictures for fifteen of them, and stats for 22 of them), and the map for Helix details about sixteen places to visit. Nine deities are described, and interesting interrelations between them and their followers are included (basically, old gods vs. new gods). Many NPCs are members of different religious, mercantile, or political organizations or factions (some legit, some shady), which sets up the potential for quite a bit of intrigue and player intervention, if they’re looking for it. (There’s no ‘story’ per se, just real-life connections that can be discovered and exploited by resourceful players. There is a backstory for the Barrowmaze, of course; its history is neatly laid out in about five paragraphs.)

The Megadungeon As for the dungeon itself, there are about 70 barrow mounds to visit just below the surface of the swampy Barrowmoor (all located on a single hex map, but each one individually described, many with multiple rooms and corresponding mini-maps). But this is just the introduction, as there are a further 375 locations in the much deeper Barrowmaze itself, which are also described and keyed to a lavish map that spans six pages. (BTW, purchasing the pdf product gets you the entire book, plus black-and-white and blue-and-white maps of the Barrowmaze in separate, one-page files.)

After the megadungeon proper there are descriptions of new magic items, spells, and monsters, six pregenerated characters for player use, seven fully-statted adventurer parties the PCs might encounter, a blank character sheet, an illustration book with 36 illustrations (each referenced in the text of the megadungeon itself), about seven random tables, and an excellent random crypt generator (in the spirit of the multi-step dungeon generator in the AD&D DMG, but contextualized for the Barrowmaze environment). There are adventure hooks, a random rumor table, four new treasure types (death masks, funerary figures, scarabs, canopic jars), and nine factions described (along with their interrelations, should the PCs want to take sides).

Art and Layout Artwork is abundant and well-placed, picturing dozens of evocative scenes and situations. Fourteen artists are at work here. There are multiple, gorgeous full-page pieces, half-page pieces, quarter-page pieces, and smaller square pieces, all scattered throughout the volume. The new monsters are individually statted, described, and illustrated in their own section. The layout includes fixed headings appropriate for the ‘section’ of the dungeon you are in, so that you can quickly flip through the book and know what section you’re in based on the heading at the top of the page. Adding this was a nice touch. The amount of text devoted to each dungeon location hits the sweet spot that avoids two extremes: ‘so detailed that my players will get bored while I review it all’ and ‘so sparse that I wonder why I bought this product.’ In every location description, both the name of the location and any monsters there are in bold, so that they jump out at you from the page. Any monsters have their stats given in just a line or two (OSR style), so that you don’t have to pull out any monster manuals if you don’t want to.

Concluding Thoughts This is a multi-year campaign in a book. It is an obvious labor of love. The production values are through the roof: binding, layout, descriptions, art, full-color cover. Even the ink is dark, genuinely black rather than faded, so that the text crisply stands out and the artwork pops, yet there is no bleedthrough to the other side of the page, because the paper is high quality. Yes, there are a few typos, particularly in the Gazetteer section. But if this product doesn’t deserve five stars - easily deserve it! - then no product deserves it. I also own the Dwimmermount hardback (Kickstarter supporter) and Castle of the Mad Archmage, and Barrowmaze Complete compares quite favorably to these: more detail than Castle, not as unwieldy as Dwimmermount. (Don’t get me wrong: these other two products deserve five stars as well.) I plan on running this in Swords & Wizardry, though it is statted for Labyrinth Lord.

What follows is a full table of contents for Barrowmaze Complete, for those who only have Barrowmaze I and II. I have blanked out descriptions that could be construed as real spoilers. Greg Gillespie worked hard on this; no need to spoil it in a review:

Credits and Acknowledgements.................2 Preface..................................3 Table of Contents...........................3 Introduction...............................4 Gazetteer................................6 Religion, Faith, and The Gods.................8 Towns and Settlements.....................10 Bogtown...............................10 Ironguard Motte .........................11 Helix.................................12 Personalities of Helix......................16 The Campaign Begins.....................20 Adventure Hooks.........................20 Barrowmaze Random Rumor Table.............20 Running Barrowmaze........................21 Barrowmaze New Treasure Types.............24 Barrowmaze Factions......................26 Barrowmaze: Endgame....................27 The Barrow Mounds........................28 The Barrow Mounds Hex Map...............29 Area One: ..........61 Area Two: .................81 Area Three: .............94 Area Four: ........100 Area Five: .............103 Area Six: ................112 Area Seven: . . .124 Area Eight: ...............139 Area Nine: ....153 Area Ten: .........157 ........................166 ....................167 _____........................168 New Magic Items.........................169 New Spells.............................174 New Monsters...........................177 Pregenerated Characters....................202 Rival Adventuring Parties....................204 Barrowmaze Character Sheet.................209 Barrowmaze Illustration Book.................211 Maps..................................234 Random Tables...........................240 Table 1: Barrowmoor Random Encounters.......240 Table 2: Brazen Strumpet Random Patron Generator........................241 Table 3: Dungeon Dressing.................242 Table 4: Pit Contents.....................243 Table 5: Graffiti.........................243 Table 6: Runic Tablet Result.................243 Table 7: Dungeon Restock..................243 Table 8: Sarcophagus Contents..............244 Barrow Mound Random Crypt Generator.........245 Open Game Content.......................253

Further differences between earlier incarnations of Barrowmaze (I and II) and Barrowmaze Complete are listed at the Indiegogo site for this project:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/barrowmaze-complete-official-miniatures-by-ow#/story

Just scroll down to ‘New Material’ to see the list.

Yes, it’s expensive. I don’t know what to say about that. Junk is usually cheap, but good things often cost more. I could only afford this product because I was the proofreader for Richard LeBlanc’s Creature Compendium, and part of the cash he paid me went toward paying for this. And this is now one of the highest quality products I own. But paying for this should be easy if you’re smart. Just get five players to pony up $10 each for years of gaming. Cover the remaining $25 yourself and you’ve got yourself a deal.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2014 07:04:24

I'll have to pull out my copy and give more detail but wanted to give this product the 5-star review it deserves. It's one of the best ebooks I've ever bought and one of my fave dungeon crawls. Very very fun and if a GM (or DM in my experience) does a little work to integrate it and embellish it, it'd be even better. Thanks heaps!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
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Barrowmaze Special Collection Package
by David S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/22/2013 12:45:34

Great reference! I am an old school gamer from the 80s and I love the old school feel!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Special Collection Package
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Barrowmaze II Illustration Booklet
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2013 12:02:25

Specifically drawn for the Barrowmaze II dungeon mapped out by the same publisher, here is a series of illustrations of various key points in the dungeon. Never mind trying to explain what the characters see ahead of them, select the appropriate sketch and show the players just what their characters see!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze II Illustration Booklet
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Barrowmaze I
by Thomas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/25/2012 15:17:57

Barrowmaze is great! I even backed Barrowmaze 2 on Indiegogo I loved it so much!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
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Barrowmaze I
by Anders N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2012 08:37:13

A simply wonderful product, well worth getting for the pure joy of reading it alone - if you find a group of players to share it with, you're in for a treat!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by Andreas A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2012 10:41:14

Barrowmaze does what it sets out to do, and does it very well. The organisation of important information, random tables and maps is quite good. I bought the PDF so I can't comment on print quality of the hard/softcover versions, but the PDF is printer-friendly. Illustrations are imaginative and mood-setting. The layout of the Barrowmaze itself is not needlessly complicated, but also not overly simplistic. The entire product is well balanced. I like it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by william w. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/22/2012 11:46:40

All I can say is WOW! This is an awesome Mega-Dungeon adventure! It very much captures the old school vibe that I love. The art is great, the new monsters top notch and appropriate. I'm looking forward to running this for my group at some point! My only complaint is the way the maps are done, cut in half in the back part of the book where you have to cut them out and piece themtogether, but the author has said he will be releasing updated maps soon, and to be honest everything else about the book is so great that, the maps are a minor issue for me. Good Gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/26/2012 10:56:17

Bring a mop. It's going to get messy.

Barrowmaze is a true instant classic. It was like returning to the days when death was behind every door and treasure (if you got past the traps) hidden among the shadows. This huge adventure will put both players and game masters to the test, but it never feels strained or forced. Barrowmaze is pushing you to your limits as a player, trying to see how creative you can be and how characters (and players) react in terrible situations. And to me, that's a huge part of the charm to old-school gaming.

In addition, Mr. Gillespie has offered a huge amount of support and feedback on his website. Clearly, he loved writing Barrowmaze as much as you're going to love running or playing it! I look very eagerly to his next product.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by bruce c. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/24/2012 23:34:57

Well I must say that this is one hell of an amazing product. It combines my favourite elements to use in B/X D&D and Labyrinth Lord: undead, ancient ruins, mysteries and swamps. It is fantastic and well written. The author does a fantastic job in here and adds some interesting elements to spice up an already excellent site-based adventure.

Just waiting for my hardcover to arrive, but I had ordered the PDF back when it was released. Cannot recommend this enough!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by William T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2012 13:43:09

For d20 goodness, I rank this with Stonehell. Barrowmaze oozes with atmosphere and danger. It is a potent dungeon, but does have generous rewards for the intrepid adventurer. The cover and interior artwork catch the essence of the tombs. The primary monster type is undead, so a party will be well advised to bring classes that specialize in fighting them.

I would love to run a group or play through this adventure!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2012 21:35:47

Buy it. I'm starting off with buy it because it is a great adventure. I am not one for mega dungeons, but as I read through Barrowmaze I was thinking how could I introduce this into my campaigns with both my veteran group and newbie group. It is a solid dungeon crawl that goes on for days. I love the backstory and it kicked started a few ideas of my own. Greg points out in the overview map their is a section for the GM to develop and man did I have a lot of ideas what to do with it once I was done reading.

The artwork is all done by guys that have become the forefront of OSR art. The art really enhances the feel of the adventure and to me captures the spirit of adventures I want to go through.

Layout for this is easy to read. Which is very important considering its scope. But everything is easy to find and Greg makes it easy for the GM to navigate the maze.

I plan on running it in my own game. That's about the biggest endorsement I can give. Do yourself a favor and go get a copy. Oh, and don't forget your 10' pole.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze I
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2012 15:49:06

(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

Let me start by saying this is definitely written with an Old School experience in mind. It is most certainly lethal in it potential, as it's author has no problem letting the prospective DM know. Strangely enough, I had never heard the acronym OSR stand for "Oh Sh!t! Run!" before reading Barrowmaze, but it certainly fits. A successful party in an OSR styled game needs to know when to pull back, resupply, heal wounds and re-memorize spells. Old School is not as forgiving as that new fangled stuff.

Another sign of it's strong rooting in Old School Play, is the strong (since the module underlines it, so will I) suggestion that PCs hire hireling and henchmen right from the start. Because when death comes a callin', you may need some cannon fodder to buy you some useful time ;)

Although set up as a dungeon crawl for new players (and the next couple levels that they gain), this isn't just a straight forward dungeon crawl. They start with the immediate outdoor area of the Barrows and will have to avoid / kill / run away from random encounters. When "sandbox style play" is referred to as Old School, folks forget that even within a set area, Old School often assumes a sort of smaller sandbox is also in play. Random encounters can often be random killers.

Of course, once the PCs enter the dungeon proper, they won't only be dealing with set encounters, multiple factions and random monsters - there are also traps. 10' poles and iron spikes - down leave home without them.

The PCs are more tomb raiders then heroic explorers, but that's okay. Old School rewards you experience by the GP - don't forget that :)

Hmmm - I could run this using the ACKS rules without nearly any conversion. PCs might be a tad stronger than LL characters, but that's easy enough to adapt to on the fly.

We get two new spells (one cleric, one magic-user) and 31 monsters in the monster section at the end (a handful seem to be from the old Fiend Folio). Random tables (Random Dungeon Dressing is certainly going to be reused by me multiple times) are always useful. There are even pre-gens for Men-at-Arms, Torch-Bearers and Porters and Henchmen, not to mention some PC pre-gens and a blank character sheet. Greg has pretty much covered all of the bases.

The maps are in classic TSR Blue, which always gets points for nostalgia.

You could run this straight from the PDF, but I'd recommend printing out the pages that deal with the rooms your party probably )or even improbably) will get to during the session in question and the maps. Nothing sucks like having to find maps in a PDF. There are no bookmarks or hyperlinks, but those are less needed and useful in an adventure that you will probably print out. I'd never say no to them, but I'm not going to miss them much either.

Greg wrote Barrowmaze to be a megadungeon the DM could sit down with and be ready to GM within minutes. No block text to be read to the PCs with every room, just a short description. I could probably be comfortably ready to run this within an hour after starting to read it. I won't know everything, but I'll be a step a head of the players. Isn't that the secret to effective DM'ing anyway?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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