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Dragonlance Classics Volume I (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/14/2018 01:02:09

Bargain basement treatment of classic modules.

The original product: Dragonlance Classics Volume 1 re-presents the original 1E adventures DL1 to DL4, in an attempt to accurately present the original material while updating it to 2nd Edition. On the plus side, all the original narrative text is here, and all of the original art, albeit rearranged in ways that don't entirely do justice to the original presentation. You're getting four classic modules in one book at a cheap price, so it's attractive for that reason.

Unfortunately the update to 2E leaves something to be desired. In the original books, complete monster stat-blocks were presented in-line at the relevant point in the adventure, convenient for running the adventure. In this edition, all monster stat blocks have been removed, replaced by a table at the rear of the volume. This table does not include monster descriptions, special attacks or special abilities, so you'll need copies of the 2E Monstrous Compendium and Dragonlance supplement to make use of them. It's the cheapest and laziest possible conversion to 2E, so that's a little disappointing.

Fortunately the original modules remain solid. They're full of odd flaws (asking you to use a part of unbalanced pre-created characters; a frankly baffling first act of the first module; far too many NPCs and far too frequent use of railroading), but their unique personality makes up for it. These are infamously the modules that come with sheet music and poetry. The story has genuine depth and epic scope.

DriveThruRPG's version: The book loses something further in translation to DriveThruRPG. The scan is not high resolution. It looks bad on screen. It looks worse in print on demand. The PoD version does NOT have lettering on the spine (unlike DLC2, which for some reason does), the pages have a "printed from a bad scan" look, and (as with most DriveThru POD books) the maps have been chopped up and bound at the rear of the book and are basically unusable - you'll need the digital copy to access these meaningfully. As an aide to a presentation of these modules it's acceptable, but as a standalone product or display artifact it falls short.

My advice: If you're running the original modules and have a choice of systems, the 3.5 update of these adventures is vastly better, benefitting from actual new content and a loving restoration with an eye to more mature adventure design, while keeping faith with the original presentation and content of the DL series. If you're running 2E, you may be better off just buying the original modules - given that you still need the 2E monster books to go with this, there's nothing you get here that you wouldn't get from combining the original 1E modules with the 2E Monstrous Compendium.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dragonlance Classics Volume I (2e)
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DDAL4-01 Suits of the Mists (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/03/2018 23:18:01

An unusual misstep for 5E Adventurer's League.

In the midst of a welcome and generally well-executed return of the Ravenloft campaign setting, we have this module, which highlights its biggest problem. After 5E has put such effort into embracing diversity and creating an open, inclusive product, we have the Vistani (or rather, their interchangeable surrogates, the Gur) front and centre in this module portrayed once again as witches, thieves and spies.

It's perhaps not as bad as 2E Ravenloft, which infamously sported such topics as "When Gypsies Tell Lies", but it's still an unfortunate descent into unnecessary (though probably unintentional) racial vilification. Vistani and Gur aren't made-up magical races like elves and dwarves; they're an explict depiction of real-life Romani, used in the same genre and context as Romani were used in the gothic horror Ravenloft draws from, without any examination of how the stereotypes from those books fuel the persecution of actual real people in the modern real world.

The Vistani elsewhere in Ravenloft can be improved by some judicious surgery of the material but here the fact that they're a Romani analogue, and that they're thieving, is the central conceit of the adventure. I don't feel like I could run this one in good conscience, so I really can't recommend it for any purpose.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL4-01 Suits of the Mists (5e)
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DDEX1-05 The Courting of Fire (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 17:29:16

A serviceable adventure suffering from some construction issues.

THE GOOD: Courting of Fire is a professionally-written adventure, divided (quite sharply) into an investigation half and a dungeon-crawl half. For the first time in the Season One Adventurer's League path it suggests story continuity, making good use of characters and locations encountered in previous adventures in the path. Some of the writing is really quite sharp, and I still love "WANTED! For thievery most cunning!" as a piece of phrasing. There's lots of talking, both with townsfolk and with villains, which I always love.

THE BAD: The module suffers throughout from some basic problems of flow and construction. The investigation component is basically the players trying to find the precise location of the dungeon they need to go to, but the adventure isn't as clear as it could be about what is or is not sufficient information to achieve this. As written, it will require hitting a particular conversation topic at Cockburn's Grocery. There's opportunity for a more lenient GM to let the players go sooner but doing so largely shortcuts the entire first half of the game. The writer could have benefited from the principle of "every clue should be offered in three places" in constructing RPG mysteries.

Likewise the dungeon-crawling portion has weird irrelevant rooms with potentially time consuming fights and no treasure, punishing players for exploring. Player motivation throughout the adventure is often unclear, with a weak plot hook for drawing players in, and a quest that can be adequately completed without engaging with any of the dungeon's puzzles or final battle. The artifact McGuffin at the end of the dungeon disappointingly has no clear powers and is apparently of little monetary value.

As a last point - it's not really this module's fault, but it's a little weird that both DDEX1-05 and DDEX1-6 deal with book thefts. It's a fairly specific plot point and it feels odd running them back to back, especially as none of the books end up being of any great importance.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-05 The Courting of Fire (5e)
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Murder in Baldur's Gate (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2018 01:12:25

A superb product - D&D at its best.

Murder in Baldur's Gate is a fantastic start to Dungeons & Dragons' 5th Edition, and remains one of the best adventures AND best campaign supplements ever published by TSR or Wizards. It contains a full-fledged fast-paced low-level campaign in the city of Baldur's Gate that combines a political sandbox with a constant stream of high-stakes events. It's the sort of story where, by design, players can't interact with everything and are constantly asked to make choices about what's important to them. The finale has wide-reaching consequences for the Forgotten Realms. It's absolutely my dream format for a D&D adventure. Plus, players familiar with the Baldur's Gate videogames will appreciate regular tasteful callbacks, while those who are not won't even notice them.

Combined with that, you get an exhaustive guide to the city of Baldur's Gate and surrounds, sufficient to run a year's worth of games. There's more useful detail and compelling plot hooks here in this one adventure than there was in the entirety of the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms material. It is absolutely a worthy purchase as a setting book even if you have no intention of running the adventure. The whole thing is in full colour, and dotted with maps, character portraits, and just a really attractive presentation throughout.

The original physical edition came with one of the most gorgeous DM's screens ever produced for D&D, and while the graphics are included in this purchase sadly the production values of the original item are not. But to make up for that, the DriveThru release comes conveniently packaged with all the bonus content that Wizards released online for this adventure, including an expanded opening encounter, additional events, and monster conversions for 3rd and 4th Edition.

All told this is a must-have for 5th Edition collectors, or for anyone interested in great D&D adventure design. Highly recommended, from someone who's rarely generous towards Wizards products.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Murder in Baldur's Gate (5e)
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Cult of the Dragon (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2018 22:06:49

Product is everything you could hope for from this topic.

PDF version is complete and text-searchable.

Print version is high quality and, to my mind, entirely interchangeable with the original book. Spine does NOT have any text on it.

Contents of the book cover everything you could want to know about the Cult of the Dragon - a full biography and multiple stat blocks for its founder, a full history of the cult including timelines and references to events in novels that featured them, dragons serving the cult, life as a low-tier cult member, hooks for adventures on behalf of the cult or thwarting it, and the traditional handful of new spells and magic items. If you're running an adventure featuring the Cult (for example the 5E Tyranny of Dragons adventures) or just looking to flesh out a campaign-level evil organisation for your Realms game, this book provides everything you want. It is, of course, set in the 2E era of the Realms, but the cult seems to have changed little in the 100+ years between that and 5E.

If you're not already interested in the Cult of the Dragon, your mileage may vary, but this material is still very easy to drop into any Realms campaign. Alternatively, it would require very little work to port some or all of it to any other setting where "wizards who worship undead dragons" is a concept that basically makes sense.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cult of the Dragon (2e)
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DDEX1-04 Dues for the Dead (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2018 21:51:44

Uninspired dungeon crawling.

Dues for the Dead presents a short delve into Phlan's Valhingen Cemetery. It's pure dungeon crawling - no investigation phase, just straight underground. Roleplaying and consequential choices are limited to the presence of a fairly generic hireling, and a brief encounter with (unnamed) bungling thieves.

It's all very obvious. Players who looked at the title and assumed they'd be exploring a tomb and fighting skeletons, zombies and ghouls will have no surprises at any point. A strong warning from NPCs against stealing from the tomb will cause all but the most larcenous of players to skip much of the module, and the remainder consists of stock undead battles that anyone who has ever played D&D has likely seen a million times.

The sole interesting feature of the module is the detail it lays on about the strange and varied burial practices engaged in over Phlan's long history. There's a lot of opportunity here to world-build in Phlan that other modules don't necessarily provide. Unfortunately it's largely in the form of a guided tour, where players move through a mostly linear series of rooms, marvelling at each new funeral practice but not really having much option to interact with it. Moreover, little of it interacts with the aspects of Phlan's history already established in canon. Miltiades' tomb is here (far underground, contradicting Pools of Darkness) but players can't visit it. There's no interaction with Phlan's historical worship of first Tyr and then Bane. Characters from early adventures who are likely to be buried here (Igan Sokol, for example) go unmentioned.

It's not a terrible adventure, just a terribly generic one. Nothing to see here you haven't seen elsewhere.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-04 Dues for the Dead (5e)
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DDEX1-03 Shadows of the Moonsea (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/25/2018 20:18:39

A mixed bag, but I'd always prefer Adventurer's League modules be too ambitious than too dull.

For the first time in the Tyranny of Dragons path there's a good mix of exploration, roleplaying and combat here, with a central mystery to solve, fun characters to interact with, and a climactic battle. It introduces some great NPCs who'll likely hang around in your campaign - Alleyd Burral isn't given much to do here, but she returns regularly along the path. Elisande is the sort of easily-adoptable character likely to become a party mascot.

On the other hand, there are some serious mis-steps. The villagers were probably intended to draw from the long tradition of sullen Lovecraftian rural cultists, but the description of their village "huts" and the unfortunate choice to give them accented dialogue makes them instead read as exceptionaly racist stereotypes. Some DM finessing - most notably to their dialogue - is needed to salvage them.

In addition, the plot of the villains ends up being overly complex, and ultimately pointless. The McGuffin the villains are searching for is not to be found in this module, or indeed in this campaign, and players can be left thinking it's important when actually they'll need to pop over to the hardback Tyranny of Dragons campaign to see what has become of it. The DM will need to be careful and creative in giving the players enough exposition to understand the events they have just been involved in.

Finally, the "guardian of the cave" is an odd squib. The setup suggests that the lone monster patrolling the woods is a serious and frightening threat, but stat-wise it's not even a match for a single martially-oriented level 2 character. Our group murdered it before it even rolled an attack.

Still, a definite improvement over Defiance in Phlan and Secrets of Sokol Keep, and a good fit for anyone looking for a short tier 1 adventure that's more than just a dungeon crawl.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-03 Shadows of the Moonsea (5e)
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A Boy and his Modron
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2018 23:19:24

Top tier one-shot D&D

I can't praise A Boy and His Modron highly enough. This is everything you want from a one shot D&D game - memorable characters, a story with real heart, rollicking comedy, meaningful decisions, a focus on roleplaying - and everything laid out in a highly readable and easy-to-follow manner. It cleverly uses familiar tropes to cue players to their roles, but they're tropes more at home in an 80s family tearjerker than your average D&D game, and they're used here to great comedic and emotional effect. Also, it has modrons.

This would be highly recommendable as a premium price module, but given it's a pay-what-you-want release it's just a shame there's not a sixth star to rate it with. Definitely run this one ASAP.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Boy and his Modron
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City of Phlan - Forgotten Realms Stock Maps
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/26/2018 17:32:20

A lovely map but a missed opportunity.

The purchase contains a single image of Phlan, in several formats, with or without some labelling.

The image itself is lovely and by far the most attractive map of Phlan I can find on the internet.
However it's compromised in several ways that limit its usefulness.

Firstly, the labelling is excessively minimal, with only a handful of places tagged. The intent might be to make the map usable in any era of the Forgotten Realms, as the tagged landmarks have existed in some form from the days of the Pool of Radiance videogame through to the Tyranny of Dragons adventure path. However, many longstanding landmarks with well-agreed locations are untagged (the Stojanow Gate and the Lyceum are notable examples), making it really only useful as a basis for your own cartography rather than a ready-to-use player handout.

Secondly, all versions of the image have the unattractive Elven Tower logo in the top-right.

Thirdly, it would have been nice to see a ready-for-black-and-white version included, seeing as you're only getting the one image. The colour choices and contrast aren't great for a black and white printing.

All that combines to make it hard to recommend this as a purchase, given that its price tag weighs in as more expensive than a full PDF module. It needs to offer more to the DM or be pitched at a lower price point to be truly recommendable.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
City of Phlan - Forgotten Realms Stock Maps
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CCC-KUMORI-01-01 Wreckers
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/25/2018 19:04:19

Another Adventurer's League linear punch-up, for better or for worse.

If you're buying Adventurer's League modules, you know what you're getting - a short, railroady one-and-done outing on the Moonsea, and that's what you get here.

Despite what the module cover says, this is NOT an appropriate adventure for a first level party, even using the scaling information supplied. The final battle includes multiple monsters that can one-shot first level characters, and there's explicitly almost no opportunity for players to use cleverness or stealth to mitigate the difficulty of that fight. Consider level 2 a minimum baseline for punters.

The other major gripe is that this is not, ultimately, a one-and-done. The villain does not appear in this module. I'm not sure if there are other modules continuing this series but if you run it as a stand-alone then players may be disappointed with a lack of closure at the end. A certain amount of player failure is also inevitable - despite the suggestion that this is a rescue mission, no one is walking out of this alive except the players, which again left my players feeling underwhelmed.

What Wreckers does offer is a series of atmospheric fights themed around a sea cult, and a long linear walk down the Moonsea coast. Players who ran the Tyranny of Dragons AL modules have seen all this before in DDEX1-02 and 03. There's one brief environmental hazard which offers players some meaningful choices but largely it's just a sequence of two or three stand-up fights. The module initially seems promising with entirely different chapters if players travel by sea or land, but the chapters are largely the same - players going by ship skip the environmental puzzle but start from a worse tactical position for the first fight. There are no meaningful conversations, puzzles, or moral choices to be seen.

Probably the best aspects of the module are that it will absolutely fit into its advertised two-hour length, and that it's cheap. As I said, if you're buying AL modules, you know what you're getting, and this more or less lives up (or down) to those expectations.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
CCC-KUMORI-01-01  Wreckers
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DDEX1-02 Secrets of Sokol Keep (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/25/2018 18:46:00

Another solid outing that struggles to find its tone

At its heart, Secrets of Sokol Keep is a ghost story, but it never really capitalises on its promise. Despite that, it's solid, easy to run, and entertaining.

One of the key problems with the module is that it feels like three different genres mashed together. The first act offers a cliched tavern brawl scenario, or otherwise a fairly grounded investigative/conversation section for less confrontational players. The second act is a classic haunted house story, as the players search abandoned rooms while a spectral presence watches. The final act is a Lovecraftian tomb-delve in flooded caves. None of the three sections really fit well with what's around them, and (as is the unfortunate case of many D&D ghost-story adventures) there's a ton of backstory informing everything that players just aren't going to know anything about unless the GM straight up explains it at the end.

As with many of these Adventurer's League modules, with the exception of the first act it's highly linear. The investigation phase offers a list of locations that can be ticked off as players search, without much opportunity for players to express themselves or take alternative paths. The tomb delve at the end is literally a straight path from encounter to encounter. That's par for the course for this format and to some extent necessary for the environment, but always a little disappointing.

My biggest disappointment was that there just wasn't much opportunity to make use of the ghost, either in terms of interactivity or atmosphere. The mansion needs a lot more meaningful doors to swing shut, chandeliers to drop, lights to extinguish, et cetera. The third act cave does better at this, but still needs some significant DM input to find its full potential.

This is supposed to be a two hour adventure, I think, but I can't see it possibly fitting into that timeframe while giving players any chance to make meaningful decisions. It took us five hours, and we skipped a side-location in act one and a fight in act three.

Problems aside, the module is generally clearly written; the NPCs in particular stand out as well-developed and memorable; the fights are enjoyable and the story more or less makes sense. My players had fun.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-02 Secrets of Sokol Keep (5e)
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DDEX1-01 Defiance in Phlan (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/25/2018 18:32:07

A generic but flexible intro to 5E.

The module consists of five short mini-adventures, each running in about 60 to 90 minutes.

We used this in our home group as the module we ran on the same night as character creation, knowing that rolling characters would take most of the night and therefore we could play as many or as few mini-adventures afterwards as we have time for.

The mini-adventures vary in quality. There's three traditional very short dungeon crawls, which are all about standard for this kind of thing. There's a mystery/investigation plot, which would be good except that the underlying mystery is disappointing and random. And there's a plot which sees the players running a sting operation on an illegal dragon egg sale, which is the best of the bunch by a fair margin with lots of opportunity for comedy, suspense and action.

Despite the underlying theme of the mini-adventures ("something is going on with dragons"), they're all very low stakes and don't exactly create an epic feel for the ongoing campaign. None of the NPCs here get used again in the adventure path, and there's not a lot of opportunity for players to have a personal stake in any of these outside of their faction contacts. Nor is anything that happens particularly memorable - there's a strong sense of having done all this before in D&D many, many times.

That said, it's solid, it's easy to run, it's flexible, and my players had fun.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX1-01 Defiance in Phlan (5e)
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DLE1 In Search of Dragons (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2018 00:25:59

A forgotten oddity, poorly presented (As of 6 Feb 2018)

Note: I do not have direct experience with the original publication of this module to compare with.

About the PDF: The PDF product contains one file, being a reasonably faithful scan of the original contents of the DLE1 module. It is NOT text-searchable, but it does have PDF-format bookmarks for each chapter. As with many of the Wizards Of The Coast scans of classic modules on DriveThru, the scan is quite low resolution - it looks fine on a screen but quality degrades sharply if you zoom or print it. Text is readable but quite faint. Interior pages are black and white only, with the exception of the maps and token pages, which are in full colour. Unfortunately the large colour hex map that is central to the adventure is reduced to a series of unconnected A4 pages with substantial white gutters and is completely unusable in the digital format. Customers will have to print their own copy and then stitch it together with scissors and sticky tape to make it work out of this release. The DM's copy, in black and white, is confined to a single A4 page and may be enough to run the adventure.

About the Print On Demand: The Softcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight) is outwardly a gorgeous product that will look good on a shelf, with a disappointing interior. The physical object is the same width along the bottom edge as the original module but is about a centimetre taller. (In my printing that additional centimetre appears to be distributed evenly across the top and bottom of the printing.) This makes it a comparable size to the 1E/2E core books and will fit flush on the same shelf. The cover is a beautiful full-colour glossy print on thin card that feels very faithful to the quality and texture of the original book. The perfect binding creates a thin true spine (unlike the original module which merely came to a point) but there is no printing or book name on the spine, just a continuation of the cover colouring.

This is a 78-page perfect bound single volume. (I.e., the interior portion is NOT detachable the way the original module was.) The change in format means that the interior table of contents is no longer accurate. Maps are included in colour at the rear of the book but are again NOT detachable. The problems of the PDF version continue here, so again the large colour map is completely unusable. Interior text quality is good, and adequately readable, but it suffers from the original scan being low resolution, and from the generally cheap and unpleasant feel of this printing process generally. In one benefit that's nice but unlikely to be used, the front and back of the token pages are aligned perfectly, so if you're inclined to cut up your book to use the included tokens, it will at least work properly.

Overall it's adequate to run the adventure from, and a little easier to safely store than the original module, but collectors will still probably want to get their hands on the original

About the module content: In Search of Dragons is an unfortunate adventure, in that the adventure itself is actually quite well designed, mechanically, guiding the players through an interesting and varied series of encounters while feeling like an explorable sandbox - and yet, it doesn't feel right. Nothing about it feels like Dragonlance - the whole thing gives the air of fanfiction written by someone who's not quite read all the original material. There's a missing air of authenticity that makes the whole experience feel a bit dirty and shallow. Plus it ends with the unfortunate trope of having two NPCs punch each other to death while players watch and wish that anything they'd done actually mattered.

Maybe that's just me. If that doesn't bother you, and you're either okay with the ending or willing to fix it, there's hours of solid adventuring included here, supporting a lot of different styles of play and featuring tons of imagination and creativity. The relative obscurity of the module is actually a plus, in a way - unlike the Chronicles adventures, or other core Dragonlance supplements, which players who've read the novels may already feel they know the plot of, this is all virgin territory, and a great surprise for the Dragonlance player who thinks they already know their way around Krynn. The story takes place in Northern Estewilde, an area otherwise largely ignored in Dragonlance canon.

The module claims to support both AD&D 1E and 2E play, although the included statblocks are closer to 1E format than 2E. As with most D&D modules, you will need a copy of the core books to play. Most combats have statblocks but a copy of the Monstrous Manual for the relevant edition and some Krynn supplements and sourcebooks would not hurt. As far as I can tell the module (fairly unusually) does not specify what level range of characters it supports, but it appears to cover Levels 1 to 4 of 1E, or 1 to 5 of 2E. The story is continued in DLE2 and DLE3.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DLE1 In Search of Dragons (2e)
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I6 Ravenloft (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/05/2018 23:56:19

A classic module, a decent PDF release, a disappointing print edition (As of 6 Feb 2018)

About the PDF: The PDF release comes with two files, both presenting the same book in slightly different ways. "9075_Ravenloft.PDF" (the "printable" version) is a faithful and unaltered scan of the original book, admittedly in quite low resolution, accurately showing the original text and typography. This will delight collectors and historians. Unfortunately, the formatting of the original book doesn't lend itself to a readable scan, with the use of light grey ink for text, and some pages showing black text on a grey background. This version has useful PDF-format bookmarks, but is not searchable. Maps in this version are broken down into A4 pages with white gutters, which suits an A4 printing but is not quite faithful to their original presentation.

Conversely, "DDI_I6_Ravenloft" is an edited scan, with the original text replaced by a searchable transcription. This version replaces the original light grey typography with a darker, more readable version, making the whole book significantly more usable in its digital form, although sadly the bookmarking was not included in this version. The maps here are presented in their correct asepct ratios as single images.

Both versions feature scanner alignment issues throughout, making many pages slightly skewed off true vertical. This could creatively be said to fit the "wrongness" of the Ravenloft setting, but it's a niggling issue which will annoy many customers. Both versions have colour covers and colour maps.

About the Print On Demand (PoD): The Softcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight) is outwardly a gorgeous product that will look good on a shelf, with a disappointing interior. The physical object is the same width along the bottom edge as the original module but is about a centimetre taller than original. (In my printing that represents an additional centimetre at the top of the cover, extending the orange banner, but on the interior pages the extra centimetre is at the bottom of the page, appearing as white gutter.) This makes it a comparable size to the 1E/2E core books and will fit flush on the same shelf. The cover is a beautiful full-colour glossy print on thin card that feels very faithful to the quality and texture of the original book. The perfect binding creates a thin true spine (unlike the original module which merely came to a point) but, both in keeping with the original and the thinness of the volume, there is no name or other printing on the spine, merely a continuation of the wraparound cover.

This is a 40-page perfect bound single volume. (I.e., the interior portion is NOT detachable the way the original module was.) Maps are included in colour at the rear of the book but are again NOT detachable. Customers are advised to include the PDF in their purchase and print their own maps from that. The PoD print is based on the "printable" PDF described above, which is perhaps unfortunate, as the low resolution is clearly visible and combines with the light weighting of the original font to give the whole book a "1990s home printer" feel. Text looks faded and blurry. Full page black and white images have visible printing artefacts where the printing has struggled to keep up with the colour density. Most buyers could probably achieve a better result on their home printer or by photocopying the original module. Maps at the rear appear to be coloured faithfully to the original book but again have a very unprofessional look. The problems of the black text on grey background pages are even more pronounced, and in addition these pages do not have the full bleed effect of the original book and instead have white gutters.

Overall it's adequate to run the adventure from, and a little easier to safely store than the original module, but collectors will still probably want to get their hands on the original

About the module content: Ravenloft is an absolute classic, by the standards of AD&D 1E, although perhaps not by today's measure. It departs from the standard 1E adventure in several important ways - it's true gothic horror, it makes excellent use of its villain throughout the module and not just as a final boss fight, it's relatively sandboxy, and key plot points are randomised to keep players who already know something about the content on their toes. In addition to all that, the villain, Count Strahd von Zarevich, went on to be a D&D icon, featured in many adventures up until the modern day, and the module spawned its own setting, Ravenloft, heavily supported in the 2nd Edition era and frequently referenced thereafter.

By today's standards it's a little lacking. The conflict is heavily rooted in the relationship between one NPC and another NPC, rather than, say, an NPC and the players. It has all the weird idiosyncracies of the 1E rules. And for all the sandbox feel, at the end of the day it IS a dungeon crawl. Still, it's easily one of the best official adventures of the 1E era and is hard to go past for anyone wanting to play with that ruleset.

The module is tuned for 6 to 8 1E characters of levels 5 to 7. A reasonably experienced GM could easily use this content with 2E, 3E or 5E, although of course those editions have their own remakes or interpretations of this material.



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I6 Ravenloft (1e)
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DL1 Dragons of Despair (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Greg T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2018 18:33:11

A classic module, and an adequate DriveThru reproduction (As of 31 January 2018)

About the PDF: Upon first release, the PDF of this module contained significant errors and omissions. As of late January 2018 a new PDF has been added which corrects those errors, and the full text of the module is now readable. The font and typography are still different to the original module, presumably as a result of making the text searchable (which it is) but this is a minor quibble. More disappointingly, the images are still much lower resolution than the original print copy, but the maps are legible and there is nothing that should stop the module from being run as originally printed.

The rest: Putting the poor scan aside, this is a classic AD&D 1e module, the first in the long-running original Dragonlance DL series of modules. You will need a set of AD&D 1e core books (Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual) to use this. (Most monsters are provided with full stats but a few, including the dragon, refer back to the expanded descriptions in the Monster Manual.) No prior knowledge of Dragonlance or other Dragonlance supplements are needed - the module gives you everything you need to start a new campaign in Krynn.

The module provides about 15 hours of play, divided over three parts (if you stick to the key encounters), or significantly more if you use random encounters or players stray from the main quest path. Part 1 is an overland "hex crawl", although sadly there is little incentive for players to visit most of the included hex map as the shortest path from the start to Part 2 bypasses the majority of it. Part 2 and Part 3 detail the surface and undercity of the ruined city of Xak Tsaroth in a fairly traditional dungeon crawling format. Groups who successfully complete the module can continue the story in DL2, "Dragons of Flame".

Other than the fact it begins the long-running Dragonlance brand, DL1 is most memorable for some of its unique design decisions. The first is that the module asks you to use the pregenerated characters contained within, representing the Heroes of the Lance from the Dragonlance novels. These characters are wildly unbalanced, ranging from a level 3 wizard to two level 6 (!) fighters (one of whose stats are just better across the board than the other). There is no real reason you can't use your own characters, although later modules reveal Krynn's elves, dwarves and gnomes differ from the traditional tropes in ways not really explored in this module. Also, PC clerics will have particular trouble for reasons unique to the module's setting. A second standout point is an included song, with sheet music, plus a long poem. The module is illustrated with evocative professional art throughout, and of course modern players with Google also have access to the wealth of stunning Dragonlance art depicting many of these characters and encounters which TSR and Wizards of the Coast have commissioned in the years since.

The module contains several maps in colour, semi-colour, and black and white, and these have been faithfully reproduced in the PDF, albeit in lower resolution than the original publication.

What the module loses in solid game design, it makes up for in passionate world-building, and even at this early stage it's clear that Dragonlance is a product with a wealth of backstory and internal consistency.

The module as-written can be fairly easily converted for use with other editions of D&D other than Basic or 4E. An official simple conversion exists for 2E in a compendium with the next three modules, although as of this writing that particular item is not currently available through DriveThru. Sovereign Press did an exceptional conversion for 3E that significantly improves the modules, updating many elements of the game design to more modern sensibilities, and that one IS available through DriveThru, and forms a wonderful additional resource even for those wanting to run the module in its original form.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
DL1 Dragons of Despair (1e)
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