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Fighting Fantasy - Forest Of Doom $6.00
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Fighting Fantasy - Forest Of Doom
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Fighting Fantasy - Forest Of Doom
Publisher: Greywood Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2010 15:02:31

I can’t really say why it’s happened, but all of a sudden it seems like sandbox-style adventures are back in vogue. Rather than following along (or rather, being “railroaded” along) a series of pre-determined plot points, the current zeitgeist of good adventure design seems to be that PCs should be given some minimal plot structure which grants them a large amount of freedom to wander around a map of a given area, exploring and basically making their own way through an adventure.

As with so many things that are suddenly popular, it’s not too hard to find examples where someone was already there, doing it before it became big. Case in point, Fighting Fantasy – Forest of Doom, by Greywood Publishing.

I never had the pleasure of reading the original Fighting Fantasy novels, so I can’t say how well this adventure holds up compared to them. However, what I did find interesting was the cover’s assertion that this is an adventure for a single character of 3rd-level, or a party of 1st-level characters. Solo adventures have always been much too rare.

From a technical standpoint, the book does a pretty good job for itself. The entire book is searchable, allowing for easy copy-and-paste, and there are full bookmarks throughout. One minor thing here was that the bookmarks aren’t nested – so the bookmark to a heading has the bookmarks for all of its sub-headings appearing right under it; it could have been done better.

Notwithstanding the covers, and one initial two-page map (actually the same map, presented with numbers and again without), there’s no color artwork here. The black and white art is fairly plentiful, however, and looks pretty good. Certainly, there’s room for improvement (quite a bit of it seemed like suspiciously clean pencil drawings), but nothing that was cringe-worthy.

My big problem with the book’s presentation is that the maps don’t have anything save for a loose scale between various numbered locations. Having only recently discovered the whole idea of hex-crawling (that is, exploring the individual hexes on an overland map), it seems like a great idea that wasn’t implemented here. Certainly, there’s no reason why the DM can’t deal with a looser interpretation of the distance between places, and relative travel times, but it seems like it could have been done more neatly.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Forest of doom is a sandbox “dungeon” set in the eponymous forest. The initial adventure setup can basically be summarized that a local dwarven kingdom has lost the magic item that’s a national symbol of pride and strength, and they want someone to go get it back for them – there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. Hence, the player is basically wandering throughout the forest, looking for clues and dealing with whatever situations he stumbles upon until he can find it.

The individual encounters are listed corresponding to the numbers on the DM’s map. Most are singular encounters, though some are detailed to the point of having a tactical map (with the one-inch squares) included. Likewise, most of these are self-contained, but some refer to each other and/or the overarching meta-plot of the adventure. It’s the essence of a sandbox game, though I personally would have included something along the lines of a random encounter table (given how much wandering through that forest the player-character is going to do), or at least a listing of what the major NPCs will do subsequent to meeting/fighting the PC (if they survive).

It should be noted that, before the adventure begins, there’s a section on a new ability score, called Luck. This seventh ability score, meant for PCs only, basically functions similarly to action points; characters can make a luck check to grant themselves bonuses, reduce damage, and several other things. Of course, every time you use a luck ability, successful or not, your luck score goes down by 1, a la temporary ability damage. It’s really quite simple for how it’s presented, and functions just as well as the more popular action point alternative.

The book is rounded out with three appendices. The first covers a menagerie of new monsters. Most of them seem fairly mundane, but interestingly several of these creatures seem to be re-imaginings of existing fantasy archetypes, such as the “titan cavetroll” compared to a normal troll. The second appendix covers new magic items and a new spell (though disappointingly, a spell to boost Luck, mentioned in the initial Luck section, isn’t to be found here), before finally concluding with a third appendix covering scaling the adventure, using it for a lower-level party instead of a single higher-level character, and a series of example PCs for use.

At fort-five pages long, Forest of Doom is a fairly good adventure for introducing low-level characters to sandbox adventuring (or indeed, to introduce them to adventuring altogether). While there were certainly things that I’d have introduced or done differently (primarily to make it easier to explore the huge forest, and adding random encounters instead of waiting for them to stumble across static ones), this is still very good in what it offers. The basic premise is sound, the three dozen or so encounters are interesting and varied, and the Luck mechanics help to cushion the PC from bad luck or wrong decisions being fatal. Conquering the Forest of Doom is a great way for a character to start a heroes’ journey.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fantasy - Forest Of Doom
Publisher: Greywood Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2009 12:20:47

The introduction covers the history of both this adventure and the 'Fighting Fantasy' line as a whole. It explains how, rather than a solo gamebook, it's here being presented as an adventure for either a single 3rd-level character or a small group of 1st-level ones playing with a DM; and also introduces the 'Luck' rules used in all the adaptations of the 'Fighting Fantasy' books to the D20 ruleset. Four pregenerated 1st-level characters are included, but unfortunately you'll have to make do with the characters, maps, etc., contained herein: references to support material from the original publisher Myriador are now redundant as their website has gone and they haven't been transferred to the current publisher Greywood's site. The ones here are fine, however, so it shouldn't be a problem.

The Luck rules are quite interesting. Luck played quite a bit part in the original Fighting Fantasy books, and those wishing to recreate the experience can use these rules. Indeed, if you like them, they would transfer to your own D20 game. Luck operates like a seventh ability score, and should be generated using your chosen system. (The pregenerated characters are already provided with theirs, of course.) You can use Luck to alter any die roll, by making a Luck check before you make the roll and using the result as a modifier to it. There's one exception, if someone hits you in combat you can make a Luck check to reduce the damage that you sustain. Each time you do this, though, your Luck score is reduced by 1 temporarily, so use it wisely! You get them back like any other ability score loss, but there are points in the adventure where they can be earned, or the DM can choose to award for particular acts of daring and heroism. Quite a neat system, if you want to introduce the concept into your game... but if you find it an unnecessary complication, you can ignore it even while running this adventure.

The adventure proper begins with some historical background for the DM. Unless you're into relaying loads of historical material to the players, this is more for the DM's own edification, so that he knows the context. It could be useful for those who want to use this within a campaign, possibly as an opening adventure. A much more succinct introduction is provided for the characters, atmospheric and sweeping them straight into the adventure. This involves an initial visit to a sorcerer's tower, followed by much wandering around in a considerable forest. The text's littered with occasional typos, niggling but just leave the teacher's red pen behind as none of them make it hard to follow what's going on. It is quite a lively forest, with a goodly number of encounters - many nothing to do with the adventure, just giving a good feel of a real forest with a multitude of inhabitants who'd be doing much the same sort of things whether or not this particular party of adventurers happen to be wandering around!

Appendices list new monsters (nice to have some extra low-level ones!), magic items and spells, and provide information for those seeking to run a campaign rather than a one-off adventure.

It is a basic 'travel and encounter' adventure with just enough plot to give a purpose. However, the encounters come in a rather loosely-linked series and the impression is that the best way to find the items that the characters are looking for is to wander around seeking as many encounters as possible untill the items turn up! Sort of a dungeon-crawl only in a forest instead, and probably better used as a one-off unless you can see a way to develop things more fully to suit your campaign world or indeed start one off.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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