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Barrowmaze Complete
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
by Greg W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/26/2015 21:50:38

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

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

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

The above images match my product exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
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d30 Sandbox Companion
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Greg W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/22/2014 13:36:29

I wrote a lengthy review of this author's other set of tables, the d30 DM Companion, which is a product I also highly recommend. As for this product, the d30 Sandbox Companion, LeBlanc has continued to implement his high standards for OSR supplements. It's 40% longer than the previous Companion, thoroughly hyperlinked, with table of contents and index, and makes efficient use of single die rolls to select a broad range of specific features at once.

The focus of the d30 DM Companion was below ground:

  • quick character generation
  • dungeon features
  • monsters
  • treasure

The focus of the d30 Sandbox Companion is above ground:

  • adventure generator
  • wilderness locations and locales
  • settlements
  • NPCs

In each case there are multiple tables per section, with quick guides about which tables to use and when.

Together these two products are a solid package. Just a few rolls will get you seed thoughts that are sufficient for actual gameplay. In addition, you can quickly develop and solidify his suggestions via your imagination.

I look forward to the author's forthcoming d30 Creature Compendium.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 Sandbox Companion
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d30 DM Companion
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Greg W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/25/2012 22:09:04

The pdf preview available here shows off 11 of the pages (almost a third of the product), so you know what you're getting... which is a thoroughly useful set of d30 tables covering quick character generation, dungeon features, monsters, and treasure. You might be able to generate an entire dungeon, in plenty of detail, with just this one book.

Replete with a useful table of contents, index, and hyperlinked bookmarks, this product can easily be used within 0e, B/X, and 1e systems. It includes a dungeon mapping key (with 98 symbols for architectural features, natural features, and furnishings), character attribute / motivation / inventory generators, dungeon walls / floors / doors / embellishment / debris generators, trap generator, poison generator, monster encounter tables and one-line monster descriptions for ‘at a glance’ lookup during games. (The latter are like the Monster & Treasure Assortment tables from TSR, but codified for d30 rolls.) Rounding out the collection are three pages of quick treasure horde generation tables (which facilitate easy conversion between 1e and B/X treasure types) and about eight pages of individual treasure item generators (including gems, jewelry, armor, weapons, and magic items). Even this short summary leaves out plenty of tables; you’ll have to discover them yourself (e.g., 1.45 billion potions; 27,000 mushrooms; 900 traps in 6 categories; 810,000 unique magical weapons, armor, and protective items, and so on).

At this point, you’re probably wondering, “So what’s the gimmick? Aren’t there lots of random tables already out there on the interwebs, produced for free by the denizens of the OSR?” Yes, there are, but LeBlanc has optimized these tables to get you maximally diverse output for minimal rolling. Promoting DM efficiency is one of the key goals that unifies the entire product. Most tables here utilize one of three conventions: (i) getting a single result from a single number (one d30 roll gets you one among thirty results; duh!), (ii) getting multiple results from a single number (e.g., one d30 roll gets you a particular trap type and a particular chance to detect it; that is, multiple results from the same table), and (iii) getting results from simultaneous 1d3 and 1d10 (e.g., one d30 roll gets you a poison with two independent features).

Here I must say that this method rocks when it comes to treasure horde generation. For instance, to roll treasure type A in the 1e MM, you typically had to do 8 rolls of percentile dice (1 for each category), and then – potentially – roll an additional 3d6, 8d10, and a d4 to get the specific treasure amounts. That’s twenty separate rolls! But using the treasure tables in the d30 Companion, you just roll eight times maximum to get the same result; the probability space is almost identical to that in the 1e MM (or B/X) in every respect. Multiply this across encounters and then across dungeon levels, and the time saved is pretty significant. LeBlanc lays out many of his other tables according to the same time-saving principles. In effect, he’s exploiting a traditionally underused die to save us lots of time in dungeon and treasure generation and description. Game prep becomes easier and pickup games convert many of their tedious pauses into time better spent exploring and roleplaying.

BTW, I first encountered Richard L. Blanc's blog just a few weeks ago, where he has at least fifty unique monsters both illustrated and statted up for 0e, B/X, and 1e. I look forward to his future products, such as the sandbox companion and the creature compendium.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d30 DM Companion
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