What’s the dollar value of an idea?
The above question is what popped into my head after I finished reading Well of the Twice Born. If you had an idea, and just jotted it down with maybe a bit of exposition and an illustration, how much could you sell that for? The question is a topical one, because that seems to be the case here.
As a quick overview, this PDF is seventeen pages long (including the title/credits page, and two pages for the OGL), and has full bookmarks, which is a plus. There’s almost no artwork to speak of – the only picture here is that same one you saw on the product page. That’s reproduced in the PDF as well as being included separately as a JPG file. Beyond that, and a company or product line logo, there’s no illustrations here to be found.
Well of the Twice Born is a Drop Zone Encounter, a location that can be dropped with minimal fuss into your campaign setting. In this case, the location is a well with religious significance. Long ago, a druid met the Goddess of Nature here, and built an altar to her on the spot, along with a magical well that would awaken animals that drank from it. Over time, this collection of animals – calling themselves the Clan of the Twice-Born – became the keepers of the site, protecting it from despoilers.
There is more here than what I’ve just described, but make no mistake, this product is almost all fluff text fleshing out the above material. There’s the longer version of the history, several different adventure ideas, what the site looks like, the basic structure and combat tactics of the Twice-Born animals, and a few other ideas for how to use this, among other narrative additions. On the mechanical side of things, while this is a 3.5 OGL product, there’s honestly very little new material here. A table of members of the Twice-Born is fairly edition-neutral, as it just lists various animals and their Hit Dice and hit points. Likewise, two members of the Twice-Born are given stats (in fact, they’re given several different stat blocks, depending on what specific animal you want them to be) but they’re just normal animals that have been awakened. There’s only one other NPC stat block here (the ghost of the original druid), meaning that the total crunch here isn’t just fairly lacking, but what is there is nothing original.
My overall feeling towards this product was ultimately one of disappointment, because while the basic premise isn’t a bad one, very little was done to really flesh it out. The author seems content to toss out a collection of possibilities for things that could be done with this encounter, but all of the heavy lifting is left to the GM. Moreover, there’s a lot that could have been done here, but wasn’t. Why isn’t there a detailed map of the location that can be used for a 5x5 ft. tactical area? You could have a listing for various traps and things that the animal guardians have created. Why don’t we get stats on the magic well itself? It sounds like possibly a minor artifact, so that wouldn’t be hard to create. How about giving us definitive stats for several characters, rather than several possible stat blocks for just a couple, and outlying specifically what they do in case of a fight. How about having some new feats, spells, or magic items specific to animals? I’m not the sort of person who’s happy with nothing but long lists of new crunch, but having even a tiny bit of new crunch is a good selling point for an OGL product. As it was, this product really felt like it wanted to be edition-neutral with how vague and undefined it acted in regards to game mechanics for most things – it either should have gone in that direction totally, or committed itself more fully to its OGL leanings.
As it stands now, the Well of the Twice Born is just an idea with a few pages of exposition and some stat blocks to help round things out. It’s not bad, but it really felt incomplete for how much more could have been done, but wasn’t. Still, if you don’t mind fleshing out more of the specifics yourself, and can run with what you’re given, this may be the idea you’ve been looking for.