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DDEX1-11 Dark Pyramid of Sorcerer’s Isle (5e)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/06/2016 17:54:28

I've done a lot of dungeons, and I felt like this could seriously use a few more maps to exemplify the descriptions in the maze. There is one map of a teleportation maze that can lead to a great many optional locations, yet there is no visual of the new rooms, nor indications on the map of how/where the teleportation squares exist that are described in the narrative. Found myself with pages scattered all over trying to make the basic map coordinate with the description.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-11 Dark Pyramid of Sorcerer’s Isle (5e)
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Tower in the Ice (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2016 11:52:04

This is a site-based adventure in which the party investigates a tower which protrudes from a frozen lake in some cold and remote corner of your campaign world. There's a short background to let you know who's actually living there now, an adventure synopsis and some hooks to get the party to go visit the tower in the first place.


The adventure itself begins at the tower, so you will have to manage the party's journey to get there - remembering that it's VERY cold round there, with the associated environmental risks - and any investigations or preparations they wish to make in advance of their trip. There are notes on handling extreme cold, and also to accommodate parties who might want to approach the tower underwater, rather than walking out over the ice to the entrance that is visible.


A clear plan of the tower is provided, along with detailed descriptions of rooms and their inhabitants. These not only provide stat blocks and tactical notes but also gives likely reactions to whatever the party might do. Suggested reactions are intelligent and give a good feel of creatures going about their business and responding when the party turns up rather than existing in stasis until they appear - nice aid to creating an alternate reality.


The adventure ends when the tower is cleared out... it's unlikely that anything other than force of arms will do. There are brief notes on possible follow-up adventures, but basically it is merely the suggestion that some other antagonist might take up residence and need to be cleared out. It's a good delve adventure with the added edge of being bitterly cold and wet.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tower in the Ice (3.5)
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To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/05/2016 13:03:25

In an area recently devastated by war, it seems that trouble is stirring again. There's quite a lengthly backstory for the DM that explains just who is intended to cause trouble this time and why, then the adventure synopsis describes how the party arrives in a settlement troubled by gnoll attacks and, should they investigate further, end in a site-based delve through subterranean tunnels to deal with the antagonist and his cohorts.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved in the first place by getting them to a small town called Evenfall. Several events take place here which lead to a gnoll-hunt which eventually takes them to the antagonist's lair. There's no map, and little information, for Evenfall but the actual events are covered in sufficient detail to enable you to run them effectively. Likewise although the initial pursuit of the gnolls ought to result in a skirmish all you are supplied with are notes on the group of gnolls and their likely tactics. The lair is supposedly in a wilderness area, but that too will have to be made up, although the actual tunnels are both mapped and described well.


The assumption is that all those within the tunnels will fight rather than enter into negotiations. Although the backstory explains why the antagonist is doing what he is doing, it is unlikely to come out during the course of the adventure, which is a shame as it adds some depth to what otherwise is a definite 'Bad Guy'... especially as if he manages to make good his escape he will carry on, not to mention the possibility of taking revenge against interloping heroes, so the information could be of use. Perhaps it can be worked into initial enquiries in Evenfell or in materials found in the lair.


Overall it is a reasonable combat-heavy delve adventure, but with the potential to be something more with a bit of added thought from the DM.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
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AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/05/2016 09:41:23

"The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games." p.74, The Book of Marvelous Magic.
This was not the first time I had read this, and by 1985 I had moved away from the D&D game to AD&D, it was still interesting to read this. Back then we freely mixed the two systems without so much as a care.

So it was with some confusion then that when I picked up AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic that is proudly stated it was for the D&D AND AD&D games. This was only emphasized more with the very first magic item listed, the Alternate World Gate. AD&D was treated on the same level as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Boot Hill.


Confusion of compatibility issues aside, The Book of Marvelous Magic became one of my favorite and most frustrating D&D accessories. Favorite because at this time I was serious into working on my witch class for AD&D/D&D and I was looking for guidelines on how magic items should be created. I didn't find that here, but I did find a lot of inspiration. Also, there were a lot of magic items in this book that later would become rather important in my own games for the next 2-3 years.
Frustrating because I never could get my gaming groups to embrace this book like I did. I think it something to do with the punny names of the some of the items. I now know that this was just something that was going on at the TSR offices back then (see I6 Ravenloft), but it made it difficult to take the book seriously at times.


The authors are listed as Frank Mentzer with Gary Gygax, but I think we all knew at the time that Mentzer did the lions-share of work on this. The book covers the same span of characters (and same span of publication) of the Mentzer penned Basic, Expert and Companion Rules. Living in my small town in Illinois I think this might have been the first reference I saw to the Companion ruleset. Reading this book I am thinking that the Companion rules had just been written and the Master Rules had not. There are no references to the Master Rules and in places, the rules seem to put 36 at the top of the character achievement and in others, it was 26.


So what does this book have? Well, there are over 500 new (at the time) magic items spanning 76 pages of text. The cover art is from none other than Clyde "I'll have the thigh" Caldwell and really grabbed my attention. Not like that (though I was 15 at the time) but because she looked like a bad ass witch.


The magic items are divided by type, so for example under Armband there are five listed magical Armbands. When a magic item needs to be listed, such a Bag of Holding, it is listed with a "see D&D Basic Set".


The book did raise the question in our groups of who was creating all these magic items? That was never fully answered here or really anywhere for a couple more decades. We opted that most of these were in fact fairly unique items. So there were not a lot of "Buttons of Blasting" out there, but maybe one or two at best.


There are a few magic items here that I still have not seen in other (future) versions of D&D, so it is worth it just for those. It is also a great insight to the mid 80s D&D, a time when TSR was on top of the world, right before the big shakeup. Also at the time I enjoyed tthis book, but largely ignored Mentzer's magnum-opus BEMCI D&D. Reviewing both now as an adult I see I did all these books a large disservice.


What is in these books that gamers of today can use? Well in truth, LOTS.
Really. The book might as well say "Compatible with 5th Edition D&D" on the cover. Hell. Change the trade dress and you could almost republish it as is with little editing. Yeah remove references to Basic, Expert and Companion. Change some of the spell casting descriptions, but otherwise this is still a gem today as it was 30 years ago.


Time to re-introduce the Collar of Stiffness to my games!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e)
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Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/04/2016 07:48:20

The backstory tells of a remote village that was saved from a devastating plague some 200 years ago by a kindly couatl, but which of late has been experiencing some difficulties - or at least, some people think so. The humans who live there seem blissfully unaware, but various fey has had problems in the surrounding woods. What is actually going on is explained at some length for the DM, of course.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved. What's needed to start the adventure is for them to visit Pearlglen, the village in question (so named for the freshwater pearls found in the area). It's a site-based adventure which starts in the village but takes the party to where the individuals behind what is going on are to be found. There's a map of their lair, but none of the village or the surrounding area, so if you feel the need of one, you'll have to find or devise something suitable. Despire the lack of map, the village is well-described with several locations to visit as the party attempt to find out the nature of the trouble. There's a bit of interaction to be had here, which should culminate in the party visiting a nearby ruined temple.


There is an encounter on the way, which is likely to end in a fight, but although it's described there is no diagram to help you set it up. The temple (once the party gets there) does have a plan as well as a full description. Most of those found there intend to fight rather than negotiate, but there are detailed tactical notes to help you run the combats.


The conclusion assumes that the party is completely successful, so if anything goes against them you will have to work out what happens next. There are some notes regarding follow-up adventures which could prove interesting, however. It's a nice straightforward 'go fight the bad guys' adventure, but it may be hard for the party to discern the full details of the fairly elaborate plot that has been hatched by the antagonists... a bit of a shame, it's a neat piece of deviltry!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
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Dragonlance Campaign Setting (3.5)
by Rohan T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/04/2016 03:39:18

A reasonably comprehensive basic worldbook for Dragonlance, although being set post-War of Souls means having to work harder if you're more interested in say the War of the Lance era.
The PDF itself was overpriced when I originally bought it (prior to WotC's "piracy crackdown"). Fortunately you can search it - the hardcopy I've seen doesn't have an index. I'm running a game and I have to hunt around for the stats for Dragonlances, which are under special materials, not magic items.
There was also some curious game design - giving each Solamnic order a different prestige class (a rose knight is probably a fighter/cleric with three prestige classes, take Dragon Rider and Legendary Tactician to complete the set), and the Wizard of High Sorcery prestige class, requiring the wizard to be specialised, going against the well-established fluff (that the order joined is based on decisions during the Test of High Sorcery). Virtually every NPC wizard's stats I saw in splatbooks stated they had chosen not to take a specialisation. The various splatbooks did have some improvements, although Heroforge tends to be sourced from this book.
I believe 1d4chan did a more eloquent comment on the section on Kender than I could.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dragonlance Campaign Setting (3.5)
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Mines of Madness (Next)
by Vicky-Eve L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2016 12:50:08

This is a good adventure and I really enjoy all the tools added to ease DMing this. Very complete.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mines of Madness (Next)
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Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/02/2016 13:16:51

This adventure involves cleaning out a fairly unusual bunch of bandits, and can be run if the party comes across them or even as the climax of a hostage-rescue plotline, seeing as the bandits in question are rather fond of kidnappings - provided, that is, you want to write one.


There's a very short adventure background that just details who the bandits actually are, and an equally brief adventure synopsis that is basically 'raid lair, kill bandits'. Then there are some hooks to get the party involved, and once suitable hooked it is up to you to get the party to the lair entrance. From there on, you are well supported with a map and good descriptions of what will be found within. The map is quite unusual, a sketch of a cross-section through the lair rather than a floorplan. It gives an excellent impression of the layout, but might pose problems for those happier with a grid-based floorplan, especially if they rely on miniatures for handling combat... and there's combat a-plenty, this is an adventure for groups who relish a good fight!


There's not much in the way of suggestions for follow-up adventures, but there are a couple of ideas that could prove interesting if you want to develop them. Fundamentally this is a lair clearance operation with unusual opponents that ought not to prove too intellectually challenging to your party but does provide them with ample opportunities to brawl - perhaps it can be used as an interlude to more thoughtful adventures, or just when you know the party is itching for a fight!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
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S6 Labyrinth of Madness (2e)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/01/2016 15:20:42

This is a large and ambitious dungeon. The characters must circle through it trying to collect 20 sigils in the correct order. Some parts of the maze are only revealed if the necessary sigils have been collected first. The dungeon has 7 levels with approximately 4 to 20 rooms per level. It is not necessary to visit every location to complete the dungeon. With all the retracing and back and forth the characters must visit at least 200 locations to complete the dungeon. It would probably take most groups at least 40 hours of playing time to successfully complete the module. There is a fair amount of searching that must take place to find the necessary sigils and secret doors and so forth to advance in the dungeon. The adventurers must cooperate well or they will fail. An intriguing adventure design. It would be a fun challenge for players who like tackling "killer modules".



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
S6 Labyrinth of Madness (2e)
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Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2016 13:05:08

The DM's background takes you back about 20 years, a tale of a noble family based in a rather remote location... with good reason, as you will see. Given that this adventure started out as a web enhancement to the Libris Mortis which is all about undead, the adventure is jam-packed with them! Worse, one has become aware of the party and is out to get them...


It all starts so innocently with a definitely alive nobleman inviting the party to a banquet at his manor, to be followed by a night hunt. When they get there the table is set for a fine al fresco feast which transpires to be of the highest quality. After-dinner drinks are served indoors, and then the hunt is on!


The house is well-described, for those who'd like to explore it, and the social activities are also covered well. The more malign events of the evening are rather more vague - of necessity, as they will depend on party actions. Enough, however, is included for you to be able to run the adventure provided you do enough preparation to have the antagonist's abilities at your fingertips. The consequences of the evening and follow-up adventure suggestions provide ample scope for messing with the party in a most enjoyable manner, too! A neat and fun adventure, fairly simple but with some interesting twists.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
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Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2016 12:36:58

This adventure is a bit of a horror story (it came out in October, after all, and there's a tendency for horror themes to abound around then), and can be run either as a single site-based adventure when your party is in the right place or - if you are willing to create your own 'prequel' adventures - as the climax of a series of events involving some of the main characters in the plot of this adventure. Interesting thought...


It's set in a remote area, where Night Falls is the only settlement to be found. Ideally a harsh northern area with bad winters and summers that don't get very hot should be used, but if you struggle to get the party to go near such places anywhere that settlements are few and far between will do. Night Falls is noted for a large graveyard, the Tomb Steppe, and folks from miles around use it in preference to burying their dead in local farmland.


The adventure background lays it all out for the DM and there's a lot going on that even the residents of Night Falls do not realise, never mind the party. The hooks provided to get the party involved (obviously not used if you have been running prequels) are based on the party just happening to be in the right place for the adventure to happen. Once they are in Night Falls, things begin to happen at an ever increasing pace, sweeping them into what is going on. There's a reason behind all this, as the backstory revealed...


The settlement and its inhabitants are well-described, enabling you to make the adventure atmospheric and suitably creepy. There's a lot of interaction to begin with, then events lead the party inexorably towards the centre of the graveyard, the skull-shaped Great Mausoleum. This is mapped out and described in detail... but terror mounts as even after exploring it and laying what's there to rest, there are still matters to be dealt with in town!


A neat adventure with some unexpected twists, there are some ideas for follow-up adventures and a couple of new monsters and a nice magic weapon.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
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Thicker Than Water (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2016 10:30:07

There's a Chinese saying "Devils give you your relatives, thank all the gods that you can choose your friends" - will your party, in particular one member of it, feel that way after you have thrown this adventure at them?


Interestingly, this is an adventure which comes to the party, rather than being set in a given location to which you have to manoeuvre them. It involves a series of events driven by a single NPC, about whom plenty of background is provided. First of all, though, you have to decide how you want to run this. You can go for a 'high preparation' mode in which you build up lots of background involving your target character, who will be a descendant of Charad, who is also an ancestor of the NPC instigator. With this route, events should be spread out over a considerable length of time, with other adventures inbetween... the suggestion is that you start with the first event when the party is 3rd or 4th level, with the seventh climactic event only happening when they have reached 12th level. That takes a lot of pre-planning and campaign organisation, so two alteratives are also presented, one more compressed (especially useful if your party is already at or near 12th level when you first consider this adventure) and one that has the target character as an NPC who approaches the party for help.


The series of events are then presented, each with sufficient detail to run them with ease. Although they are linked, this will not be apparent to the party as a whole or the character singled out for attention, at least not at the time and possibly not even in retrospect. Even individually, the events are quite interesting and can occupy the party nicely as minor side-adventures, but over time they all build up. Throughout, there are references to what the party can discover should they realise that something is going on and decide to investigate a bit. The whole thing is quite open-ended, with various ways to reach the final climactic event and a range of outcomes depending on what the party does... running away is one option! Whatever they do, however it plays out, there may be consequences, and some ideas for further adventures are provided.


If you like deep, complex, long-running plots this is well worth a look, especially if you are aiming for a long-running campaign (or have already embarked upon one). There's plenty of action and excitement, and despite being focussed on just one party member, everyone will find themselves with plenty to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thicker Than Water (3.0)
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Bad Light (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2016 13:11:52

With the title 'Bad Light' given to a scenario set on an ocean coastline near a trade route that's threatened by a reef, and a plot which centres around a light-tower built against a cliff it's quite easy to guess what might be going on... but there's a bit more to it, as the adventure background lays out for the DM. Moreover, there is more than one way for the party to solve the problem, which gives a nice feeling of freedom of action and allows for ingenious ideas and tactics,


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved, neatly giving a variety of options so that you can spring this on them pretty well whatever they think they are doing at the time. However, it's primarily a site-based adventure, with the action proper beginning once they arrive at the lighthouse, which rejoices in the name of the Pearl Tower having once been coated in mother-of-pearl scales (long gone now, pinched by raiders). A plan is provided, along with detailed descriptions of who and what is to be found there.


There's also a secondary location that needs to be visited, covered in less detail so you may want to spend some time on designing the surroundings. Once matters have been dealt with - and that will require fighting, the antagonists are not the sort to be talked out of their activities - there's a brief mention of some follow-up activities. Overall it's a neat little adventure that can be dropped in somewhere suitable as part of the exploits of a typical band of adventurers.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bad Light (3.5)
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Dry Spell (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:37:09

In a nice low=level adventure, the party is asked to retrieve a magical item that has been stolen by bandits and which is believed to be behind a drought troubling a region that is already semi-desert. The background for the DM explains what is going on and a few hooks are provided to get the party involved, mostly - as is appropriate for the level - an offer of reward to find out what is going on and put things right. It's suggested that if nobody in the party can track, an NPC tracker be available to help them find the main site of the action.


Basically, once the party have done whatever research they like about the bandits (or the magic item, not that much is known about that, its owner was on the way to consult with a local sage when the bandits attacked) they need to travel deep into the desert to find the bandit lair. Here's an opportunity for a bit of sun, sand and suffering for the party. They'll need to make sure that they take adequate supplies and take precautions against the heat... and of course, some random encounters are provided to keep them entertained along the way. Once they arrive at their destination, there's a neat little delve with some varied and quite intelligent (or at least well-organised) defenders and a bandit chief who is quite cunning and thinks about what he is doing - although he is of the 'fight or flight' variety, unlikely to try negotiations with the party. A few thoughts for follow-up adventures are mentioned, but this is basically something to accomplish and then move on. A neat little adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dry Spell (3.5)
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A Question of Ethics (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/22/2016 11:27:32

Here's a bit of a delight: an adventure where there isn't a Bad Guy to defeat, rather there are two contending forces, neither of which is particularly good or particularly bad... and the party will have to decide which, if any, they are willing to help!


The background notes for the DM explain everything - it's a territorial dispute over an area that includes a wizard's tomb, with one lot wanting to turn the tomb into a base and t'other lot not being interested in the tomb at all, they're after a mineral nearby. But they won't talk, let alone share. A nearby town is holding a festival, which is assumed to be what gets the party into the area (although ther are other hooks if your lot aren't great festival-goers), and the module sets out to provide you with all the resources you need to let the party loose in the area and moderate whatever they decide to do... a neat way of handling a very 'open' plot.


These resources include notes on the town and the festival, which as well as the usual elements of a mediaeval fair includes an Arcane Challenge with a series of events for spell-slingers to test their prowess against each other. Naturally, a party wizard or sorcerer might like to try his hand... and others may be more interested in archery or fencing contests or even a cooking competition! Several NPC spellcasters are provided as opposition, along with notes on how they intend to address the challenges of the contest. If nobody from the party joins in, it can still make for an entertaining spectacle.


Just to add to the fun, there's another group of adventurers there, who are concerned by some encroaching stone giants and are trying to stir the town up to do something about them, and there is also a nasty disease spreading through the region. And, of course, there is the dispute that is at the heart of the plot. Everyone involved is detailed, along with what they are likely to do, how they will react to any interference, and what they are likely to be willing to negotiate about.


Finally, there's the wizard's tomb itself. This is mapped out (using a map from the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website, reproduced here although the original link still works at the time of writing) and is full of interesting things... and traps to guard them. Plenty of fun for those looking for a more traditional delve.


Ending with some notes on the consequences of some of the more likely party actions, this is a real gem of an adventure, with a lot packed into 11 pages!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Question of Ethics (3.0)
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