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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
by William F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/26/2013 08:10:19
The only thing wrong with it is that it is the 4th edition....... not a fan of it other than that it is fine. I am a OlD so I prefer the second edition.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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RR3 Van Richten's Guide to Vampires (2e)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/25/2013 06:27:57
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/11/25/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-van-richtens-guide-to-vampires-advanced-dungeons-dragons--
second-edition/

Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires is not only my favorite supplement for Ravenloft, but it just might be my favorite for all of Second Edition AD&D. More importantly, it’s easily the single best release about vampires in the history of Dungeons & Dragons. Hell, It’s hard to think of a release for any other system that matches up to the sheer quality of this one, and that includes White Wolf’s Vampire games. It’s the magnum opus of the late, great Nigel D. Finley, and considering he was the mastermind behind such products as The Tome of Magic, Draconomicon, Shadowrun Second Edition, Tir Tairngire, and multiple releases for games I love like Vampire: The Masquerade, Chill and Earthdawn, that should tell you just how amazing this release is. It’s something all Second Edition AD&D fans should own, and honestly, if you use vampires in your tabletop game at all, for whatever reason, you should own this too. Now, if you need concrete, specific reasons as to why you should purchase this, read on. Otherwise, just go purchase it now.

There are fourteen chapters to Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires. Each one of them is more narrative and descriptive rather than filled with stat blocks and mechanics. This is for the best, as AD&D and Ravenloft in particular already had tons of mechanics for vampires, but the problem was most Dungeon Masters were just using them as generic monsters to fill dungeons with. The disgust from seeing DMs use vampires inappropriately or as cannon fodder is what caused Ravenloft to be born in the first place, and Findley definitely uses this book to ensure readers can get inside the heads of the most iconic of undead. How they think, what drives them, how they differ from mortals now that the subside on the life force of the living. So on and so forth. It really is a must read for anyone even remotely thinking of using a vampire, especially in a high fantasy setting.

Chapter One is “Introduction,” and it is a narrative by the character Rudolph Van Richten, explaining why he is writing this book (yes, the entire thing is in character rather than third person, and it works beautifully), along with background information on why he hunts monsters. Chapter Two is “The Background of Vampirism,” and it tells the possible origins of vampires, the general genetic makeup of this type of undead and a bit on different racial variations, like dwarven or elven vampires. Chapter Three is your first chapter that is devoted to stats and mechanics. “Vampiric Powers” starts on with in-game narrative about the most common powers vampires have in AD&D. The ability to Spider Climb or assume Gaseous Form at will, hypnotism, shapeshifting into animals and the like. It also introduced Salient Abilities, which are powers unique to a specific vampire. This idea helps a vampire from becoming generic and also lets you customize a creature to throw players off while also making your vampire a memorable antagonist. After this narrative, you are given a ton of charts and stat blocks to help you customize your vampire. You get to see how a vampire’s stats improve with age, and a list of eighteen salient abilities that range from being able to charm while in Gaseous From to draining four levels with each successful hit. Yikes to all.

Chapter Four is “Creating New Vampires,” and it’s mostly self-explanatory. It gives multiple ways a vampire can be created rather than just the old “killed by a vampire drinking your blood” motif. Chapter Five is “Vampire Weaknesses,” and this too is rudimentary. Findley gives us a list of common AD&D vampiric weaknesses, like running water, holy symbols and sunlight, but also expands this to possible other weaknesses for unique vamps, ranging from classic folklore issues (such as having to count poppy seeds) to mirrors keeping a vampire at bay as well, instead of just refusing to show their reflection. Chapter Six gives us “Destroying the Vampire,” and this is basically a continuation of the previous chapter.

Chapter Seven is entitled “Magic and Vampires,” and it covers multiple spell groups from AD&D, like Illusion/Phantasm, Enchantment/Charm, Necromancy and so on, listing how spells may have different than intended effects on vampires. It also talks a bit about vampires wielding magic items, but not much. Chapter Eight, “Life-Blood: Vampiric Feeding Habits,” talks about ways vampires feed, how much blood they need versus how much they WANT, and also why they must do it. It also talks about alternatives to blood (again, to make a vampire unique) and also what the victim feels when being drained. Chapter Nine, “The Sleep of the Dead,” talks about what passes for slumber amongst vampires. Why they must do it, whether or not they need to sleep in a coffin or have their tomb lined with native soil. Things like that. You also get mechanics for a sleep deprived vampire, which is neat. Chapter Ten, “Hibernation,” continues this discussion by going into details about long sleeps, or what V:TM called Torpor. This chapter helps to explain how vampires can survive many centuries as well as gives you a way in which they can be especially vulnerable at the same time.

Chapter Eleven is by far the most interesting chapter in the guide. It is called “Relationships Between Vampires,” and it talks about not just how a vampire embraces another, but also the relationship that forms between those two vampires afterwards. There is the common master-slave vampire dynamic, but this chapter also gives you a new way for a vampire to create an equal, such as a vampire mate (as well as how to engage in a vampire based divorce). Of course, not all vampire relationships are positive ones, so this chapter discusses how to run combat BETWEEN vampires and how age comes into effect. Perhaps most interesting is that the chapter does delve into homosexuality amongst the undead, but very briefly and as a side note. Still, that was pretty progressive for 1991 and especially for AD&D at the time.

Chapter Twelve is “The Mind of the Vampire,” and it discusses the psychology of being undead. Why does a vampire do what it does or think what it thinks? How does immortality change one? The chapter also talks about why vampires are generally listed as Chaotic Evil by AD&D alignment terms. It also discusses how a vampire can indeed hold its original alignment for a while, but why Van Richten believes they all eventually turn to Chaotic Evil. Mainly this is due to a long life and a growing detachment from mortals and the way they think. It also discusses the ego and arrogance of a vampire and also what to do with an insane one.

Chapter Thirteen is “The Façade,” and it talks about how vampires may pose as a human or mortal in a local area, and how they are eventually discovered by some foolish or nosy person. It also discusses WHY a vampire might want to have a public life. Finally, Chapter Fourteen is “Retained Skills,” and it talks about what abilities, spells, powers and the like a vampire can retain if they had class levels before being embraced. More importantly, it also tells how they can level up! Now that’s a scary thought, isn’t it? The chapter also ends with a warning to not make vampire PCs and why. This is also the note the book ends on, and it’s a very smart one indeed.

All in all, Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires is one of the best supplements for AD&D Second Edition ever written, and it’s certainly the crown jewel of all Ravenloft supplements. I know I’ve said this multiple times throughout this review, but if you’re thinking of running a vampire against your PCs, regardless of system, you should really have this book on hand to use. This is a must have for almost any gamer. It’s truly a joy to have this publicly available for purchase again.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RR3 Van Richten's Guide to Vampires (2e)
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D&D Rules Compendium (4e)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/24/2013 19:27:37
This is the D&D 4E book that my group uses the most. Since we play online, having a PDF copy that I can quickly CTRL+F and search is very handy. The PDF is bookmarked, so even if I can't remember what term to search for, I can find the right section quickly and jump to it.

The rules are clear, well laid out, and take into account several errata that you won't find in the original Player's Handbook. If you play D&D 4E, even if you ignore the other Essentials books, I recommend picking the Rules Compendium up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Rules Compendium (4e)
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B4 The Lost City (Basic)
by Aaron D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/23/2013 13:18:11
I do not have much to add except to confirm what has already been said by many about this adventure - it is one of the better modules that TSR ever published. It has a sword and sorcery kind of eldritch weirdness vibe to it, a place that should not exist. It is also one of the first and best "faction" modules. It is overwhelmingly tough if the PCs think they are going to hack their way through. They must choose sides and interact with the bizarre denizens if they are going to have a shot. It reminds me a little of I1, Dwellers of the forbidden city, perhaps my favorite module all time. My biggest criticism of B4, unlike I1, is that it takes considerable suspension of disbelief to buy into this strange locale. And like many early dungeon crawls, their seems to be no reason for some of the monsters to be here waiting for the PCs to kill them and take their stuff. This is also one of those modules where the players might ask "what the heck does this thing eat?" A modern GM who is used to story driven adventures might have some creative work to do before implementing this into a campaign. Still, with this bit of prep-work The Lost City is one of TSRs best modules.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B4 The Lost City (Basic)
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
by Derrick B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/22/2013 23:27:00
So far so good...fun adventure, well put together...writers seem to have thought of everything.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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Greyhawk Player's Guide (2e)
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/22/2013 11:20:04
A must have if you want to play in the Greyhawk setting. BUT this scan SUCKS. Save yourself four bucks and download it somewhere free. THE DOWNLOAD SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Greyhawk Player's Guide (2e)
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An Adventurer's Guide to Eberron (3.5)
by Daniel B. T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/17/2013 23:50:26
This book is the perfect introduction to Eberron out there. It is short, it manages to show of what makes the setting unique, it has loads of great artwork, and not to much text. The only problem is that it mentions a few bits of information that they players preferably should discover on their own. But other than that, its a great book for introducing this campaign setting to new faces.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
An Adventurer's Guide to Eberron (3.5)
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RR1 Darklords (2e)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/15/2013 06:36:21
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/11/15/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-darklords-advanced-dungeons-dragons-2nd-edition/

As you can tell from the RR1 coding, Darklords was the first supplement release for TSR’s Ravenloft campaign setting. There had been an adventure or two published beforehand, like Ship of Horror, but Darklords was to be the first of many pieces to flesh out what ended up being the second most successful (and lucrative) campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition (Only Forgotten Realms did better).

Darklords takes a look at sixteen different Darklords spread out over thirteen chapters. Some of these Darklords would go on to have full adventures devoted to them, one would be the star of a SSI video game and still others would appear in published fiction. Yet others would never be seen again. It’s interesting to see how these sixteen big bads turned out because back in 1991, the sky was the limit for each character. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Anhktepot. The book starts out with one of my top five Darklords. Anhktepot was a great character for so many reasons. First, he was the best mummy in D&D history. Second, he was an evil worshipper of the sun, which always threw off a lot cleric PCs. Third, he was one of only three Darklords to star in a video game (Stone Prophet), making him arguably the most famous original creation for Ravenloft for mainstream gamers (The other two to appear in video games were Strahd and Lord Soth ,of course). He would also go on to have a very important adventure (Touch of Death) which would help to change the very makeup of the Dark Domain itself. The background of the character is an impressive one and his domain is especially cruel. Anhktepot is a lot of fun to use in any Ravenloft campaign and out of the sixteen in this book, he’s one of the four that went on to make a huge impact on the campaign setting.

2. Tristessa is a drow banshee who rules a realm of the undead. She is completely mad and wishes only two things – to find her lost child and revenge against the drow. The Darklord of Keening, Tristessa was an interesting take on the banshee and potentially one of the few Darklords PCs can make allies with (as long as they hate Drow too). Tristessa never came to much. She had a short story in Tales of Ravenloft but she was a Darklord that didn’t see much use from players or writers. Pity.

3. Bluebeard. This is exactly what you think. The classic French folk tale character turned into a Darklord for Ravenloft. I always thought this was a silly idea and honestly it seems like so did everyone else. He got a short story in Tales of Ravenloft and then was never used by anyone again except for a brief mention in Sword & Sorcery’s Third Edition version of the setting. Arguably one of the worst Darklord ideas ever.

4. Ebonbane. From one of the worst to one of my favorites. Ebonbane is a living evil sword who is trapped in a castle with the geist of its arch-nemesis – a paladin named Kateri Shadowborn. Ebonbane stars in one of my favorite Dungeon! adventures of all time – “Bane of the Shadowborn.” Because the goal of the adventure is to destroy Ebonbane, that and Darklords are its only real appearance in Ravenloft. I’m always very opposed to adventures where the goal is to kill a Darklord because that utterly defeats the purpose of one and is spitting in the face of what Ravenloft SHOULD be, but Bane of the Shadowborn is so well done and Ebonbane existed only for that adventure, so it’s one of the rare exceptions that I make on the subject.

5-7. The Three Hags. I never cared for the hags or their domain of Tepest, but they get an extremely long and well fleshed out back story here. In spite of that, most writers and gamers felt the same way about the hags as I did. They never received any mention in second edition besides this and their initial writeup and 3e only paid them a tiny amount of lip service. The triad of Darklords for a single domain does make it extremely hard to take them down if you’re using Ravenloft as a boss fight type setting (ick), but they are amongst the most forgettable Darklords in the entire setting.

8. The Headless Horseman. I was annoyed by turning Bluebeard into a Darklord, but I did originally like the idea of the Horseman as one. After all, he’s a very iconic figure in American horror and he’s so vaguely defined by his original creator that he works a lot better than trying to shoehorn Bluebeard (whose story has a complete beginning and end) into the Dark Domain. Plus one is ghost of sorts and the other is merely a serial killer. ANYWAY, I never cared for how the Headless Horseman was used by Ravenloft He is forever riding a horse and cutting off heads, with his domain being a single road he constantly runs down. That’s all there is. There’s no depths, definition or defining of the Horseman. He’s just schlocky cheap fear. The Darklord would appear briefly in an adventure and he too got a short story in Tales of Ravenloft, but he was one of the few Darklords to not see even a line of print in the Third Edition version of the Dark Domain. Alas.

9. The House of Lament. This is an evil living house that has one of several potential explanations behind what it is and why it does what it does. I always loved this location. The house is less a Darklord than a fine setting for an adventure, but it is really quite memorable and a lot of fun to use – especially on low level characters or people new to RPGs. Unfortunately, nothing ever became of the house and this was its only appearance besides a brief mention in third edition. Talk about your lost potential.

10. Von Kharkov. This was always one of my favorite Darklords. He’s a Panther that was polymorphed onto a person and then turned into a vampire. So he’s a vampire panther. It’s very convoluted, but the back story is rich and a lot of fun. Von Kharkov would appear here and there in several texts through second and third edition, but never very in-depth and never with a spotlight on him except for this book. He got a short story in Tales of Ravenloft and that was really his fifteen minutes of fame. Pity, because every player I know has a soft spot for this Darklord but no one ever seemed to know what to do with him on the writing side of things.

11. Merilee. A generic child vampire. She’s not actually a Darklord of a domain, so I always disliked her inclusion in this book. She’s also not very interesting and was realized to be a bit of a mistake as soon as this was printed. You never hear about her again and she’s definitely the low point of the book.

12. Captain Alan Monette. Another character who shows up here and is never heard from again. Too bad too, as he’s quite interesting. Monette is a werebat pirate who transforms based on the tides rather than the phases of the moon. Trapped on an island with a spooky lighthouse, Monette makes a great one-off villain but not the best Darklord. Fun to craft an adventure around though!

13. The Phantom Lover. Another one shot who is never seen nor heard from again, The Phantom Lover is badly defined, way overpowered and a pretty stupid concept. He’s kind of a Marty Stu unkillable incubus. Bleck. Definitely up there with Merilee as a low point in the collection.

14. d’Polarno. The darklord of a small domain, Marquis Stezen d’Polarno gets a story in Tales of Ravenloft and a few brief mentions in Third Edition, but that’s about it. He’s not particularly memorable either. He’s a souless drab being that can regain his original personality and love of life by using an enchanted painting to drain souls from victims. Another character best suited for a one shot adventure rather than as a Darklord.

15. Tiyet. Tiyet is a strange mummy offshoot that is pretty memorable as well as challenging to any PCs who encounter here as she doesn’t appear undead at all. Rather she appears to be a beautiful classical Egyptian woman. Her domain is all but emptied of life and she is a rather lonely and sad inidivudal, compelled to eat the hearts of the living. This is her only real exposure in Ravenloft save one or two very brief mentions. Like several other characters, Tiyet makes an interesting being to revolve an adventure around, but she doesn’t really work as a Darklord. A very interesting and well done read though.

16. Zolnik. The last Darklord in the collection is a skinwalker or Loup de Noir werewolf. He has a very impressive backstory and is one of the more memorable Darklords in this collection. Unfortunately, TSR decided to job him out and kill him off in the adventure Dark of the Moon, which I reviewed back in October. Why TSR would go to the trouble of giving these Darklords such rich back stories and deep characterizations just to kill them off in a short little adventure is beyond me, but I really wasn’t in charge of the line seeing as I was in sixth grade or so when it was released. Still, Zolnik might be killed off rather easily in a throw away adventure, but we’re looking at the content for him in Darklords and it’s top notch indeed.

So there you go. A look at the sixteen Darklords of Darklords. I’m not happy with four of the sixteen, but that means there’s a 75% quality ratio here and that’s pretty darn good. As well, Darklords is a must own for anyone even casually interested in Ravenloft to see just how much depth and detail was put into even a C-level minor lord of the Dark Domain. This PDF rerelease is a bit pricey consider the physical copy was only a dollar more back in 1991, but D&D PDFs do tend to be a bit overpriced compared to their contemporaries. If you don’t already own a copy of Darklords, I would still strongly recommend the PDF version at this price as it’s very well done, but you might want to check Ebay for a physical copy first as you can undoubtedly get it cheaper.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RR1 Darklords (2e)
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CM6 Where Chaos Reigns (Basic)
by Jonas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2013 06:49:37
Epic scope of this adventure is a bit daunting and it is hard to believe everything has been succesfully crammed to one adventure module. These days similar adventure would take hundreds of pages. Science fantasy elements in it makes me think of the adventure like Doctor Who plot crossed with D&D. It's a bit plot heavy but that can be forgiven all the fun that can be had with it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CM6 Where Chaos Reigns (Basic)
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XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/08/2013 14:27:56
Module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone is an adventure for the D&D Expert set, Mentzer/BECMI version.
Let's be honest and upfront right away. This is not a great module. The adventure is widely described as being akin to everyone's first module. The adventure is your basic "retrieve an item at the end of a dungeon crawl" fare.

The real reason behind this module are the toys. Specifically the LJN/AD&D toy line.

In fact you can pretty find an entry for every monster in the toy line, save for Tiamat herself.

Now I am not sure if the module was designed to sell toys (not likely since the markets seemed different to me) or rather as way to bridge the lines. There are references in the module n which toy to use for the encounter and to tell you the truth, it sounds kind of fun.

Reviewing the module again in this light, as an excuse to use the toy line, it actually dawns on me that it would be a blast with the right group.

It should also be said that this module includes the stats for many of the favorite npcs/figures such as Warduke, Kalek and Strongheart, plus a few I didn't even know about.

So viewing the module in this light, is could be quite fun despite it's short comings.

So 4/5. The adventure itself is more of a 2/5, but the stats and the idea of the using the toyline improves it in my mind.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
by Louis D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2013 16:51:14
I love the new system, art, layout and characters, a must have for the Dungeons and Dragons player within all of us thank you so much.
Louis E Danhoff - AHC

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[5 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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Vault of the Dracolich (D&D Next)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/29/2013 06:24:07
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/10/29/tabletop-review-dd-next-
-vault-of-the-dracolich-dungeons-dragons/

Vault of the Dracolich is a noteworthy adventure for many reasons. It’s the first ever Game Day adventure to be released for public sale. It’s the second publicly available D&D Next adventure, with the first being Murder at Baldur’s Gate. It’s an incredibly large adventure, as it’s designed for four gaming parties, each consisting of four to six 4th Level characters. That’s a total of sixteen to twenty-four players! That’s like a V:TM LARP size adventure. As you can imagine, it takes more DMs to run the adventure (one for each party) and one person to coordinate what is going on. Now, you can scale the adventure down to have one troupe play it or to turn it into a set of five short adventures, but the adventures loses a little when you do this, as it’s meant to be a big chaotic crazy mess that is sure to be a memorable adventure for you and your friends. Outside of a Game Day event or a convention, it’s hard to think about when you could get enough people to properly play this adventure. Doubly so for a place to house all those gamers!

Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a downside to this PDF, which is that it only contains a fraction of what you need to run the adventure. Sure it comes with the adventure and two PDF maps (one for the players and one for the GM), but it’s still missing a LOT of content. For example, you need to have been a part of the D&D Next playtest to make this adventure work. Unfortunately, the playtest is now done. Sure, there are some of us that are still part of the process past the public playtest, but if you missed out on the playtest, you won’t have the rules for the game, the bestiary that contains all the monsters you need to run this adventure, character creation bits and more. So if you want this adventure and don’t have D&D Next, you should hold off until it’s publicly available. Otherwise you have an adventure with a lot of missing content you simply can’t run. Other missing pieces include the pregenerated characters and all the pieces that were in the Game Day 2013 kit, like the cling sheets to keep track of where each of the four parties is at, along with the location of the dracolich. Now, I realize we couldn’t get physical copies of these things as this is a PDF only product, but it would have been exceptionally easy to tag on all the missing content as a separate PDF. I don’t know if it was just a massive oversight by Wizards of the Coast when they added this to DNDClassics.com or what, but it’s a shame that such an incomplete product is available for sale. Well, at least it’s only five bucks, and you can use the adventure with previous editions of D&D if your Dungeonmaster has the time and patience to do so. However, because of the missing content and logistical issues that come with running Vault of the Dracolich, it’s hard to recommend this piece to the average D&D fan out there.

The adventure itself has between one and four parties infiltrating the lair of Dretchroyaster, a mighty Dracolich and the focus of the Cult of the Dragon. Forgotten Realms fans will recognize the name, as this is a pretty well known faction on Toril. If you prefer other campaign settings or a generic world, you can change a few names here and there to suit your world. The lair of the Dracolich is large enough that it accompanies four sections, ranging from a Lizardmen commune to a temple of the dead god Bhaal. Each of the four locations offers a very different experience, so if you decide to run all four parts as a mini campaign or a single party, things won’t feel repetitive. Each party must enter their chosen location and find an idol that lies within. The idols are the key to entering the chamber where the Dracolich has housed an ancient artifact of immense power. The ultimate end goal is to get that artifact out of the Dracolich’s clutches, be it absconding with it or destroying it.

There are some added twists for the multi-group setting, where characters and even entire parties can trade places thanks to some faulty portals. This is a really cute idea, but without the massive player experience it just doesn’t work, so I suggest nixing it. There’s also a very odd option for allowing players to continually resurrect from the dead, albeit with some negative consequences like lowered initiative, lowered hit points or even coming back as a wight. I really don’t like this option, as without the fear of character death, what’s the point of an adventure like this? My suggestion is let the death stand. After all, why would the Cult of the Dragon and/or a Dracolich house their prized possessions in a place where thieves and adventurers keep coming back from the dead? Obviously the PCs won’t be the first to die here. Just a bad idea across the board.

Overall, Vault of the Dracolich is a truly unique and highly memorable experience if you can get enough players and DMs to let the adventure unfold the way it was intended. It takes a lot of coordination, but the end result is well worth it. Playing Vault of the Dracolich as a campaign loses a good deal of its luster, but it still manages to be a really fun experience for all involved. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that the PDF version on DNDClassics.com is missing content needed to run this adventure, so if you don’t have D&D Next rules, you’re a bit out of luck here unless you want to homebrew the piece for an older edition of Dungeons & Dragons. A thumbs way up for the adventure as designed, and a thumbs down for releasing the adventure for sale without including the missing content. So everything evens out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vault of the Dracolich (D&D Next)
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RM3 Web of Illusion (2e)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/14/2013 06:55:24
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/10/14/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-web-of-illusion-advanced-dungeons-dragons-second-edition/-


Web of Illusion is one of those odd Ravenloft adventures that neither fits the mood nor theme of the campaign setting, and actually works better if used as a generic mid-level adventure for PCs. This is not the fault of the adventure’s location, as Sri Raji is one of the more unique locations in all of 2e AD&D, and the Darklord of this domain is one of the more memorable in Ravenloft. Rather, the adventure simply eschews everything that makes Ravenloft, well, Ravenloft, and instead we are given a highly generic and somewhat dull experience that just doesn’t sit well with fans of the Dread Domain, and especially with those of Sri Raji itself.

One of the big problems is that the adventure lacks everything that makes Ravenloft so unique. There is no need for fear or horror checks because nothing about the adventure is scary, spooky, creepy or foreboding. It’s your general run of the mill, “Learn about a big bad guy, enter a dungeon and kill it,” affair. That’s hardly the type of thing one thinks of in regards to Ravenloft. Oerth or Toril based adventures, sure, but not the Dread Domain. Another problem is that there really isn’t a lot of story. The adventure is literally, “You’re magically in a new location. Here’s a magical artifact that can kill the evil being that rules this land. Have at it.” Sure you get a tiny bit of explanation from a few NPCs, but the adventure is so linear and dead set on rushing you into the dungeon crawl that you don’t really get a taste of the setting. This is funny, because the adventure includes a huge section from the Darklords supplement on the background and world design of Sri Raji. Seriously, why include over five pages of background information if your adventure turns this entire country into a one shot location that players will never be able to visit again?

Another thing wrong with the adventure is that it simply refuses to ever pull the trigger on the fact that Ravenloft is a pretty evil place where one constantly has to choose between the lesser of two evils. It turns the guilds of Sri Raji from a bevy of horrible choices that control the political intrigue of the country into a simple black hat and white hat side. Sure, the white hats are all Lawful Evil, but the characterization in the adventure makes them all closer to Lawful Neutral or Chaotic Good. That’s some bad design there. As well, if players drag their feet, the DM is encouraged to run a scene where their would-be allies claim to have infected the PCs with a weretiger strain of lycanthropy. However, the adventure balks at actually doing this, having it be a trick to make players go along with the adventure story. Not only is that kind of lame, but it’s Ravenloft people. Infect those PCs! Look at Dark of the Moon. Here players ARE infected with Lycanthrophy, and it really adds a layer of tension and fear to the adventure. Not with Web of Illusion though. God forbid you actually try to fit the theme or feel of the setting.

Finally, the adventure is just too disjointed for me. It feels like two different writers with two VERY different adventure writing styles each took half of the adventure and threw it together. The first half is a bunch of barely written scenes thrown together without any real order or continuity, and the DM is supposed to make sense of them. Then the second half of the adventure is written in a completely different style and is a very dry dungeon crawl that feels hastily inserted. Web of Illusion is just NOT a good Ravenloft adventure, and it’s kind of a middle finger to the entire campaign setting.

Now you would think after all that constructive criticism that I’d give this adventure a huge thumbs down. Actually, no. As I said at the beginning of the review, Web of Illusion is far from being a good Ravenloft adventure, but it works quite well as a generic hack and slash dungeon crawl. The actual dungeon crawl part of the adventure is really well done. In fact, in terms of explaining and showing how to properly use illusion magic, Web of Illusion is almost a must read for any DM or player who uses Illusionist specialists in the slightest. Showcase layered illusion and how to craft one on top of the other or make the dispelling of an illusion trigger a new and different one is simply genius, and it’s something 99.99% of players and DMs either overlook or never even think that deeply about. The illusions are the most dangerous aspect of the dungeon, and I think anyone who plays this will walk away with a newfound respect for that type of magic. The dungeon is tough but fair and the type of monster the Darklord turns out to be is always a fun one to deal with.

So a thumb’s down as a Ravenloft experience, but a thumbs up if you look at Web of Illusion as a generic hack and slash one shot, akin to what you’d find for say, Dungeon Crawl Classics. The two ratings balance each other out, and I give this a thumbs in the middle. I can’t recommend it if you’re specifically looking to run something Ravenloft for the Halloween season. You don’t have a lot of options to choose from over at DNDClassics right now, but there are definitely better ones than Web of Illusion for showcasing the Dread Domain. As a general adventure, five bucks for a sixty-seven page adventure is a really good deal nowadays, and there’s that great showcasing of how to properly use illusion magic, so it may be worth picking this up, depending on what you are looking for. In the end, Web of Illusion proves the old adage about whether or not to buy a Ravenloft adventure: if the adventure has you killing a Darklord, you probably shouldn’t buy it.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
RM3 Web of Illusion (2e)
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T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
by Brandon B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/11/2013 13:53:15
One of the most fun, challenging and imaginative Greyhawk adventures ever designed. If ToEE is not the greatest Greyhawk module, it is easily one of the very best and is a must for any Greyhawk campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
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Dark of the Moon (2e)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2013 06:37:57
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/10/11/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-dark-of-the-moon-advanced-dungeons-dragons-second-edition-
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As I’ve said in the past, a good rule of thumb for whether or not a Ravenloft adventure is worth buying or not is whether the plot ends with you trying to kill the Darklord of a domain. If it does, put it down and look elsewhere. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. Ship of Terror is one. Bane of the Shadowborn is another. Thankfully, Dark of the Moon is another, even though you’ll be killing one of the more interesting Darklords in the game. The reason this adventure is able to get past the horrible idea of killing a Darklord (which should be all but impossible and trivializes what being a Darklord means as well as the entire campaign setting as a whole) is because you’re given a slow burn up to the inevitable climax. In essence, Dark of the Moon is more a mini campaign where trying to kill the Darklord only comes after a long series of grueling events where PCs will be tested not only by a horde of unwavering lycanthropes, but by the very elements themselves. Much of my time with Dark of the Moon both past and present reminded me of the old Wilderness Survival Guide from First Edition. For many gamers, Dark of the Moon will be the first adventure where they actually have to keep track of inclement weather damage, frostbite, hypothermia and starvation. For some, Dark at the Moon may be too intense for the gamer that just wants a standard hack and slash dungeon crawl. For others, the fact their players will have to deal with so many variables will be a new, exciting and interesting challenge. After all, weather is an enemy that you simply can’t defeat.

Dark of the Moon is designed for four to six players between 5th and 8th level. The adventure is pretty intense and more likely than not, members of the party will die from exposure to harsh temperatures or being eaten by werewolves. Do not underestimate how lethal this adventure is as it’s very reminiscent of some old Gygaxian penned adventures in terms of how easy it is for a PC to meet their final fate here. I’ve found that a Druid has the best chance of survival, followed by a Ranger or a Cleric. Indeed, a Druid may be indispensable to the party surviving both the weather and the werewolves in this adventure. The old AD&D adage about Mages being the best character the higher level characters get is thrown completely out the window here as for much of the adventure, Magic-Users will not have access to their spell components. So that extremely low Hit Point total combined with no magic just paints a massive bullseye on any Wizard PC that takes part in this adventure.

Dark of the Moon takes place in the domain of Vorostokov, which is an analogue for Siberia. Players will be brought to the domain by the mists of Ravenloft, ensuring that they will be ill prepared for a climate of endless frigid winter. Votostokov has little in the way of food as animals that are game animals are elusive and the weather is much too cold for the growing of crops. Villages are sparsely populated and it can take weeks of travel before you find one. As such, players are in a bind. After all, would you want to be wearing full plate mail in below zero weather? That has got to be painful. With the heroes realizing they are pretty unprepared for the weather (unless again, you have a druid or magic items like a ring of warmth), cold based damage is about to set in. So Players will be completely out of their element, both literally and figuratively lost in a land that they have never been in and freezing their collective asses off.

Which of course is when the hordes of werewolves show up. Much of Dark of the Moon is fighting and running from werewolves. If the players have magic, silver or blessed weapons, there will be more fighting than running but if the opposite is true, Pass Without Trace becomes the absolutely best spell in the game for the duration of this adventure. The werewolves in Vorostokov are very different from those players will have encountered before. Instead of your standard werewolves or loup-garou, the lycanthropes in Dark of the Moonare skinwalkers or Loup Du Noir, which actually doesn’t mean skinwalkers or skin changers in French. Discovering the differences between these creatures and your standard werewolves, is a big part of what will help characters to survive, especially as the way to kill the Darklord is extremely convoluted and may take multiple play sessions based on the rolls and wits of the players. There’s also the additional problem that at least on PC WILL be infected with lycanthropy, if not all of them. In Ravenloft you have a 2% chance per point of damage taken of developing lycanthropy – 3% if it is by the Darklord. Considering the sheer amount of combat and that for this adventure you roll after each hit and the percentage is cumulative, you’re going to have a werewolf or entire group of werewolf PCs. The good news is that being a werewolf will help them to survive the freezing weather, give them some nice damage prevention bonuses and help them to regenerate. The bad news is that it basically lets the Darklord of the domain mentally control them at will. A cruel DM will force infected players to find a cure for their lycanthropy after the adventure, but in Ravenloft, that is an exceptionally hard task to accomplish. A kind DM will let the players be free of the disease once the Darklord is dead and that’s what I’d strongly suggest. Of course some player at some point will want to stay a werewolf, but that’s a whole other problem you’ll have to deal with if and when it comes up.

Another interesting aspect of the adventure is how alignments blue here. You’ll find Chaotic Evil Rangers, a good aligned werewolf, and that your best bet for killing the Darklord is by allying with three evil aligned NPCs – two witches and a ghost. More than likely, there will be a few Powers Check rolls made by your players in this adventure. This is actually typical of a Ravenloft as you’ll find strange bedfellows as players must decide between the lesser of two evils. Truthfully though, the three allies you’ll need to make in this adventure aren’t evil in terms of how they are written, but Second Edition was pretty strict with classifying specific “races” (for lack of a better word) as a specific alignment with no room to budge. It’s odd the adventure does this with these three while making huge steps outside the usual alignment with the aforementioned good werewolf and evil ranger who still has access to all his class disciplines.

All in all, Dark of the Moon is one of the better “Kill the Darklord!” adventures for Ravenloft, mainly because while being the climax of the mission at hand, there is so much more going on, that it is only the focal point until the very end. Dark of the Moon will last you several playsessions and while it’s not a top tier Ravenloft adventure, so to speak, it’s still a pretty enjoyable one. You could do a lot worse for a five buck adventure, especially since this one will last you multiple playsessions and really test you as both a player and a Dungeon Master. I definitely recommend this, but with the caveat that you and your players really have to be willing character death or a permanent change into a evil werebeasty.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark of the Moon (2e)
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