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G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
by Edward C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2013 09:19:56
Writing a review for Against the Giants is a bit like telling someone about Diet Coke and Mentos. As soon as the words "Diet Coke and Mentos" come out of your mouth, most people are going to start telling you about their own experience with them and their spectacular effects. But some people are going to look at you confused and ask what you are talking about. So you grab that moment with both hands and immediately run to the nearest Stop-n-Rob to buy some innocent-looking candy and soda and be part of a moment that someone is going to remember for the rest of their life.

If you have played AD&D, Against the Giants is probably one of the adventures you reminisce about most at the Old Gamers' Home. You remember that moment when you opened that one door in the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and felt like Han Solo rounding the corner into the StormTroopers. Or the guy who made the mistake of using the fireball at the wrong time and place in the Glacial Rift. Like any other module, you watched good characters die and lucky characters make exactly the roll they needed at the crucial moment. And if you were a serious gamer you probably went through it multiple times.

But like bell bottoms and that old flame that sent you a Facebook friend request, AD&D is making a comeback, and a new generation of gamers are being introduced to the mysterious alliance between factions of giants who would normally no sooner work together than twerk together. When DriveThruStuff announced the opening of the DnD Classics section, this was no doubt one of the first modules many searched for, and it was the first purchase I made when I logged in.

Now for those of you who have yet to experience Against the Giants, this one is called a Classic for good reason. It is a challenge for players and DMs alike. For the player, there are giants. Lots of giants. And there are giants' pets, giants' servants, and giant's houseguests and family to deal with. This doesn't mean you can check your brain at the door. Giants may not be brilliant strategists, but invading a giant environment has challenges you may not anticipate until you face them. And if you don't think, you are going to miss out on loot. You can, however, expect to gain a LOT of rocks. Giants love rocks, and carry them around in bags (according to the Monster Manual).

This leads us to some of the challenges the DM will face.
1) LOTS of bags with random contents: There are approximately 52 giants just on the first level. Each has a bag that holds from 2-8 items which are randomly generated from a percentile table. Your party is going to want to look through a LOT of those bags. If any of the first ten or so have gold, they may want to search every bag in the place. Download a random die roller and do all of this before the first session.

2) Dense population surrounded by empty spaces: If they don't use the right entrance a particularly stealthy party, or one that moves fast, could get through a significant amount of the first level and only see a few giants here and there. That is, until they open one particular door. You may want to change the population density a little and have the giants move around a bit. Or you may want the party to walk in to a particularly memorable event. Just be aware that they could get the impression that the giants are away on a raid.

3) Layout favors the cautious/cowardly: Parties who want loot more than glory can get their wish if they play their cards right. For example, in the Steading it is possible to get into the main treasure stash by opening less than 10 doors and quite possibly not even seeing a giant. On that route they will also pick up a significant clue that essentially satisfies they requirements of the mission. Are you, as the DM, going to let the chips fall where Gygax put them, or are you going to intervene?

There are some minor issues with the text itself, but nothing that applying some common sense won't get the DM through. But those issues were in the original published version. The PDF is true to the format of the combined modules. Older gamers may remember when the three Giant modules were sold separately, so they may be surprised at the size of some of the maps in this combined version, but they still print well even if enlarged.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Against the Giants is not a nostalgia module. It doesn't "give you the feel" of old-school Fantasy RPG. It IS old-school Fantasy RPG, the standard by which other old-school style games is to be judged. When you picture a group of nerdy gamers in the late 70s in their Kiss Army T-shirts having pizza and Mountain Dew while playing D&D, this is what they are gathered around.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
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X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
by Samuel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2013 23:52:56
Great sandbox wilderness adventure. There's plenty written out for you, but lots of room to add your own stuff. The scan is mostly quite good. The newer ones seem to change the font a bit, but in return for clearer text that cuts and pastes properly, it's worth it. The maps of the continent and the island could be a little better, but they'll do.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
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X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
by Samuel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2013 23:43:04
Great adventure, reviewed by many, and I don't have much to add about that. However, I'd like to second the criticism the previous reviewers criticism of the scan. The main map (on the inside of the cover) has some missing right down the middle. I would really like WotC to correct this, the way they did for the same problem with B2 - rescan the map as one large landscape page, rather than splitting it up and cropping it too short. Thanks.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
by David T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2013 11:14:13
The HR series was without a doubt the peak of expression of the AD&D Second Edition design philosophy. It gives an excellent high-level overview of Viking-Age Scandinavian culture and beliefs. It tells you how to modify the core rules to take AD&D away from its medieval base. You get which classes are allowed to native Norsemen, how those classes are modified, and new classes; a new system of rune magic for warriors; new price lists for a much more limited—and historically correct—equipment list; and all-new monsters, plus a list of which monsters from the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM or MONSTROUS MANUAL are appropriate for the setting.

The book suffers from feeling like it was rushed. This is especially true whenever it mentions things you'll find in the back of the book—there is, for instance, no summary for players there as promised in the text. The author also seems confused with Second Edition terminology; for instance, the terms "wizard," "mage," and "sorcerer" are all used incorrectly when referring to classes. (Usually, where he says "wizard," read "mage"; where he says "specialist mage," read "specialist wizard," and where he says "sorcerer" read "wizard.")

Also be warned that the PDF you get here is the first printing. The second printing had errata corrected; it would have been nice to get that printing instead. The biggest piece of errata is on page 23; the paragraph is supposed to read:

"Although they possess magical abilities, runecasters are members of the warrior group. They can use any weapon and wear any type of armor. They fight and save like warriors. Experience is earned as a fighter and they advance in levels as a ranger or paladin. They are allowed to use all those magical items normally available to warriors. However, the runecaster never gains any bonus hit points normally due for high Constitution scores."

The scan of this PDF is adequate, not great. If they do a better scan of the second printing, my rating will go up to five stars.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
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Deities & Demigods (1e)
by Alexander L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2013 15:37:44
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/08/15/tabletop-review-deties--
and-demigods-advanced-dungeons-dragons-first-edition/

The Deities and Demigods book has been a mainstay of the D&D world for a long time – most people who played D&D during the 80’s or 90’s will probably remember it. Unaffiliated with any specific TSR setting, this book presents a multitude of different pantheons, including heroes and beasts. Most of them are drawn from our own world and history, although there are a few exceptions (the mythos of Nehwon/Lankhmar and a number of non-human deities).

I’m reviewing a PDF version. The scan is not a very good one, but the PDF is otherwise completely useable and is completely and thoroughly bookmarked. The cover art is dated, to say the very least. It would probably draw some laughs in a contemporary gaming store.

A rather lengthy introduction to the book details its intended purpose, advice on using divine beings for the Dungeon Master and some discussion on Clerics, Omens and Immortality. After this follows a total of fifteen chapters containing a short general description of a specific Mythos and a long list of deities, creatures and heroes, followed by an appendix with some general information on planar travel and other odds and ends.

The Mythos sections present a wide variety of different cultures.

American Indian
Arthurian
Babylonian
Celtic
Central American
Chinese
Egyptian
Finnish
Greek
Indian
Japanese
Nehwon
Norse
Sumerian
Non-human
One of the strong points of the book is this diversity. Ehether you want to use these as is or only as inspiration for creating your own pantheons, you are more likely to find some good analogies to cultures in your world.

The presentation of each Mythos mainly consists of stat blocks and descriptions of creatures; these take the general format of a monster entry, complete with combat statistics. There is also artwork for most entries. This art has a very old-school feel to it and is of mixed quality, and must be said to be an acquired taste. Some people are sure to love it, some are sure to hate it.

One contradiction in this book which strikes me very early in my read-through is the statements in the introduction about playing divine beings, and that the statistics blocks in the book are presented mostly for flavor, versus the fact that they take up a lot of space and that many descriptions seem to focus heavily on a deities abilities and combat tactics. The feel is often as if reading a compilation of super powered monsters, and I find myself skipping through certain sections looking for the useful bits.

So, is this a good product? It’s really hard to say. It is a description of a number of earthen pantheons and as such can be an interesting read. It is also useful for those who want to design their own mythologies, for inspiration. It is, however, extremely verbose for this purpose; the statistics for the deities and heroes feel superfluous and make up more than half of the contents, and the descriptions of deities and creatures are brief in comparison and often filled with even more information on magical items and abilities. Information such as religious rites and traditions and more general information about the pantheons is brief and often scattered through the descriptions of the individual deities.

There are some nice bits in there, however. The Chinese and Finnish mythologies are both very inspiring, and scattered through the text are fun magic items and some useful monsters.

One major drawback for certain people is that this version of the book does not have two beloved sections: the Melnibonean and Cthulhu deities and creatures. I don’t find it a significant weakness if you are not specifically looking for these, but if you are you should of course stay away.

I can recommend the book for those who want to create a diverse mythology for their world and are interested in real-world analogies; at $9,99 it’s not terribly expensive. As a general reference book, however, it is not at all necessary, and most people will not be using it at the gaming table.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deities & Demigods (1e)
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B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
by Lucas C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/08/2013 11:20:55
I ported to 4E quickly and easily. It was no problem putting some basic monsters in the mod and then running it mostly on the fly. I loved the level of detail and exploration - my PCs had so much fun with the room of pools. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the 4E mods I have ran.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
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D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1e)
by Megan R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2013 11:16:00
Firmly placed in the middle of a linked series of adventures, the Introduction sets the scene to a sufficient extent that if you have not played the Against the Giants set of scenarios first, you could summarise to explain to your players what is known so far and why they might want to undertake this adventure. Basically, after the climactic battle at the end of G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King, it became apparent that the Drow were instigating the trouble but many of them fled down a tunnel... so, are your brave adventurers going to follow? Assuming they do (or are otherwise interested in pursuing this adventure), there are a few notes on the preparations which they ought to take, and the reminder that the adventure, while rated at 10th-level, assumes a large party of 7-9 characters and that smaller parties should enlist the help of local elves.

The first part of the adventure involves actually getting along the tunnel into the complex below, and while there's a lot of detail about 'wandering monsters' that may be encountered, the DM will either need to thoroughly prepare what will happen when and where, or be happy running varied encounters on the fly as seems appropriate. There are a couple of fairly set encounters before the end one of the first part (the 'Descent'), but it's mostly a case of wandering along subterranean passages and probably brawling with whomsoever you find.

The second part (originally Shrine of the Kuo-Toa) draws upon what the characters should have learned from the end encounter of the Descent part, although it's not clear how the characters work out much more than that a certain race is involved, rather than figure out what they are doing. Again there are a couple of set encounters and a lot of scope for random brawls with wandering monsters with no plot relevance, as well as a final set-piece in the Shrine itself.

This is noteable as it is the first introduction to a race that has become a favourite in Dungeons & Dragons, the Drow or Dark Elves. In terms of plot, the adventure is quite weak and linear with little scope for interaction save at sword-point; but for those looking for a dungeon crawl there is ample scope although as mentioned earlier the DM needs to prepare comprehensively (or be happy running truly random encounters) as a lot is left to his imagination. A classic early adventure.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1e)
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B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
by Rob M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2013 08:01:36
As the first module for Basic D&D, Search of the Unknown has a history that makes it very appealing to a DM. If you're looking for a very old-school dungeon, this is it.

As an artifact of its time, B1 is an excellent read for any DM looking to become more literate on "how things used to be." The front matter contains helpful advice on running old-school games they way they were intended to be played.

As a dungeon, there are many cool and interesting locations in B1. However, there is also an awful lot of empty space and boring rooms with the simple purpose of housing a random monster. Why the monsters would be in these empty rooms is beyond me.

When I ran B1, I had to do it after some heavy modification. Essentially, I removed any location that didn't have something interesting or fun. While this resulted in a dungeon about half the size, it did provide an adventure that was packed with great high-fantasy magic and fun.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
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B6 The Veiled Society (Basic)
by Bruce L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2013 14:58:36
Written for Basic D&D, but easily adaptable to nearly any version of D&D (used it with 2nd Ed. AD&D). It features a murder mystery, which leads into a lot of role-playing with some political intrigue. It can easily be adapted to any city the GM cares to plant it in. I really enjoyed it, but as usual, the players took it in a direction not really scripted in the module -- not a complaint, just a note that this is not a particularly linear adventure. Make sure you understand the groups involved, before you start running it, as well as their intrigues. Fun adventure, glad I purchased it, really enjoyed playing it with my group. Cheers!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B6 The Veiled Society (Basic)
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D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
by Jeffrey K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/22/2013 18:26:24
Much more convenient than separate volumes, and an improvement in clarity

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
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PHBR8 The Complete Book of Elves (2e)
by Marco F. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/19/2013 08:30:16
A must-have for every elf supporter. This book is a guilty pleasure for every D&D player with a penchant for everything elvish. It is noteworthy in particular for its role-playing tips rather than rules-wise, as the review of the sourcebook here suggests. The scanning is excellent and it prints very well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PHBR8 The Complete Book of Elves (2e)
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Encyclopedia Magica, Vol. 1 [A-D] (2e)
by Joseph H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/17/2013 18:52:38
I just wanted to mention that the quality of the 2013 re-release of this PDF appears to be of much higher quality than what is described in the earlier reviews. All of these pages are straight and the text is crisp. No orange highlighter. I didn't even notice any bleed through of the "behind page" ... which is a real accomplishment as the original paper was very thin on these books.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Encyclopedia Magica, Vol. 1 [A-D] (2e)
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City Sites (2e)
by Joseph H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/17/2013 18:22:27
After reading the review from 2003 below, I just wanted to state that this 2013 re-release is a much better quality scan. All of the pages are straight. The text is crisp on most pages. The text is a bit fuzzy on a couple of pages, but perfectly readable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City Sites (2e)
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Greyhawk Player's Guide (2e)
by Brian G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2013 17:28:28
While the *content* of the player's guide is excellent (I love all Greyhawk material), I was very disappointed in the "physical" quality of this scan. I purchased the same product several years ago from Paizo when it was first made available, and I purchased this copy to perform a comparison, hoping that Wizards of the Coast had updated the OCR. Sadly, this looks like the exact same file, right down to what looks like a crease or pencil mark on the table of contents on page 7, and a black blot on page 71; the only change in this more recent edition appears to be the addition of a more thorough set of PDF bookmarks.
While I love the older edition stuff for its thoroughness and depth of detail, I doubt I will be purchasing any of the WotC/TSR 1e or 2e stuff until the quality improves – 4 stars for content,0 stars for scan quality

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Greyhawk Player's Guide (2e)
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D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
by Stefano S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/12/2013 12:15:53
Really good to have this book as a pdf. Although it is a scan the quality is high.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
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