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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2013 12:20:27
Originally posted at: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-dar-
k-and-deep-bestiary.html

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard. While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise. Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters. This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2013 13:54:12
Originally posted here:
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-
-dark-and-deep-game.html

One of the greatest books ever produced for any game is the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. One of the most disappointing books ever made was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The logic for this was good. All the information that all players need should be in the Player's Handbook. The rest goes into the DMG. The result should be a larger Player's Book than a Game Master's book. That is what we got for 2nd ed. Somehow it didn't quite work as well.

Adventures Dark & Deep follows the same logic but gain a different result.
The Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is the book that BRW and Joseph Bloch didn't have to do a Kickstarter for. The statement that Joe put out at the time was Kickstarters are for projects he needed to finish the funding for. The Game Masters Toolkit did not need it.

The GMTK is smaller than the Player's Book at 174 pages. Not as small as the 2nd ed DMG, but the comparison is there. The GMTK also includes some information from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore but it also has a lot more.

The GMTK also follows an example from 2nd ed and it largely mirrors the layout and placement of sections form the Players Book. Something that the 1st ed DMG could have done better.
We start with a discussion on "alternate" races like the Dark Elf or Deep Gnome.
Various NPC types are discussed including class distribution and some non-classes like noble and hirelings.
There are tables to generate personalities and physical traits for random NPCs, as well as alignment and possessions.

We get into the Game Environment that is a hold over from A Curious Volume.
Swimming, Underwater travel and Flying are also discussed along with various terrains and hazards. A little bit down we have a section on ships that is greatly expanded. Again, could have used this when I was wrapping up my 1st Ed AD&D game.
The feel of these is similar to the classic DMG, but better organized.

Social Encounters come from A Curious Volume, but having them here in context with the other rules is much nicer.

Treasure types are discussed and magic item distribution.

The most interesting bits to me are coming up. To me this shows the influence of the 3e DMG or just a natural progression. Bloch covers not just the campaign world, the campaign mythos as well. So whether you like playing in a Classical world, a Lost Golden Age, Underground or even in a Lovecraftian-inspired world is up to you. You are given the tools to build what you need, but not the worlds themselves (this is Feature, not a Bug!).

Religion and Gods are covered next. Various reasons to have a god or a patron deity are covered and what sorts of powers they all have. The list of powers and abilities is more 1st Ed than 2nd Ed. I will also admit I don't know much off the top of my head about what Gygax said about gods and religions. I know he said some things. On a personal note I had conversations with Mr. Gygax himself on the topic of religion and I know he was no great fan despite his own history.
Bloch though moves on and gives us a sample Pantheon to use in our game, the Norse gods. Again from personal knowledge I know that Joseph Bloch is a fan of the Norse mythology and gods, so this is a good fit really. Though I do wonder at the utility of listing the XP for permanently slaying Odin (1,022,000 XP btw).

The Planes of Existence is up next and it is cut from the Gygaxian cloth. Wholly compatible to what we have seen in 1st and 2nd ed, there are some nice twists. I like the art depicting the planes in relationship to each other.

Next we get into a section on Designing Adventures. Covered are Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban. The section is not long, but very useful.

Magic Items are next. Personally I would have liked the charts for the Magic Items and the descriptions to all be in one place. This takes up quite a bit of the book at 70 pages.

Appendix A is last and it collects and reprints all the useful tables.

With the GMTK you can really see the utility of Adventures Dark & Deep over a reference guide like OSRIC. Not a slight at OSRIC at all, but this book has a slight edge in just by being a seperate Game Masters book.

To me the advantages of this book, all this information is one place, is better than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord + what is missing.

That being said, there are still some things I would have done differently. Most involve the placement of various section. Others I know are "locked" into the Gygazian visions or at least how Joseph Bloch interprets them. For me, I think I would have expanded the sections on adventuring in Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban settings more. I would have expanded the section on how to create magic items and even changed somethings. But that is me.

All in all this is a good addition to the game line. I felt less of the Gygax connection here. Hard to say if that is me not knowing what he said on these subjects OR these are things that need to be here logically to make the rest of the game work. In any case I am happy with what I got.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2013 14:16:36
Originally Posted here:

http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-
-dark-and-deep-players.html

Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual is the first major release from BRW Games and the first major release of what is the Adventures Dark & Deep game. Again, a lot of what I have said about
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is true here. Including how this was the result of a particularly successful Kickstarter that shipped early.

The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR. Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar. Unlike the previous book, the Player Manual makes no assumptions that you have AD&D1 or OSRIC. There are some obvious roots in those games, but this is now it's own thing.

Like most Player's books this one concentrates much of it's text on creating characters.
There is the obligatory sections on how to use the dice and then how to generate ability scores. In a difference from this game and it's spiritual cousin AD&D 2nd ed, we still have exceptional strength. Also all the ability score tables go to 25. Humans (and most PCs) still rank 3-18.
The same six ability scores are here. Interestingly enough, not Comeliness. I thought that would have made the cut.

Races are covered. Again the same ones we have seen before. But thats the point isn't it? This a AD&D2 as if Gary had created it. So there are a lot of elements in common here with AD&D 1 and 2 plus older versions. We do get a Dark Elf (not a Drow) and Half-Orc. It would take a critical eye to see the differences here between Adventures Dark & Deep and say OSRIC.

Classes include the new and the old.
From A Curious Volume we have: the Bard, Jester, Mystic, Savant, Thief-Acrobat, Mountebank
From the classic sources we have: the Paladin, Cleric, Druid (topping out at 15th level), Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Mage, Illusionist, Thief
And new to this volume we have: the Cavalier, Vates (Druids of 15th level and higher).
The Assassin is listed in the Appendix.
Classes are grouped into Class and Sub-class like AD&D1/2 but not like OSRIC. So all in all 17 (18) classes. Not bad really.

The Alignment system is the same as *D&D.

Secondary Skills is pretty much the same as what is found in A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Same with the Monthly Expenses which is now part of Social Class.

The next big section is Combat which includes the standard D&D style combat we all know and the additional material from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Morale is back in this edition, sort of like it was in Basic and AD&D2. There is a nice section on item saving throws. I have seen similar ones over the years, but this one seems fairly complete.

The next section is Magic.
It includes the making of magic items, learning spells and even an optional rule on sacrifice. The bulk though is devoted to spells.
The Spells are listed by class and level, but all the spells are alphabetical. There are 118 pages of spells, so roughly what you would expect from OSRIC and A Curious Volume. I see about 6-7 spells per page, so maybe close to 650 spells. There could also be more, but I did not check every single one. The spells are are written in a way that makes them compatible with pretty much every other OSR-style book out there.

Appendix A covers the Assassin class.
Appendix B covers weapons vs. various Armor types. A very Gygaxian holdover. As opposed to vs. AC, this is actually the type of armor. I like it and it makes sense. I am thinking of using this in my own old school game to be honest.
Appendix C covers combat tables.

The book does capture the feel of old D&D with some interesting twists. None that would trip you up, but still enough to make you go "huh, that is kind of neat".

The art is nice and still invokes that Old-School feel without looking dated.

The PDF is copy/paste restricted, but not print restricted. Which is good because I want to print that Appendix B. The physical book is nice and sturdy and at 257 pages it is a decent sized book. It compares well to the AD&D 2nd Ed Player's Handbook to be honest.

It is a nice book.

So who should get this book?
Well if you like the OSR or enjoy AD&D then this is a good choice. It is a better "game" than OSRIC is. I say "game" because OSRIC isn't a game as much as a reference to a game you already know how to play.

If you have A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore and OSRIC then yes you could re-create this book on your own. But part of the utility of this book is that all of that information is in one volume.

It is worth it for the new classes and spells too.

I like it because it is a well researched "What If" experiment, much like Spellcraft & Swordplay (what if D&D continued using the default combat roll) and B/X Companion (what if the Companion rules had come out for B/X and not BECMI). We will never know what Gygax's 2nd Ed would have been like. In a way, really we don't need to know. 2e was fine and Adventures Dark & Deep is here now.
It is perfectly playable and fun.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
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A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/15/2013 14:25:49
Originally posted here: http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/10/review-adventures-dar-
k-deep-curious.html

A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is the first of Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep books. It is presented as an add-on or supplement to OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord or any other "Old School" game. But its roots are obviously in AD&D 1st edition.

The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR. Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar.
At a modest 140 or so pages, this book packs in a lot.

We begin with some level limits of some newer races. By newer I mean ones that did not appear in the Player's Handbook/OSRIC.

We quickly move into classes. First up it should be noted is a usable Bard class. No more advancing as a thief, fighter and then druid to get to the bard, this is a straight out bard class. Already makes it worth it. The bard also has some nice powers too. I will be honest, when playing in my "old school" games this is the Bard I look to the most often now.
We also get a Jester class, which is nice because it is one of those classes I remember Gygax talking about wanting to use all the time. Same with the Mountebank.
The mystic class seems closer to the BECMI/RC version than it does to the monk. Which is fine by me really.
The last class is a savant, another one I recall reading about back in the day. This one is more of your occult investigator/sage with some magic type.

So far as a "class book" it is shaping up real nice. Lots of ones I'd like to try out and they fill niches that /could/ be filled by other classes, but they make it their own.

The next section is on Secondary Skills, which seems to refine the system in AD&D, but not quite a full blown skill system. Very much in the vein of "your class is what you do, but you have this extra thing" philosophy.
We end up the characters section with monthly expenses and starting ages.

The next section is on combat with an alternate combat system. Again I seem to recall talk of such a thing, but it is more vague in my memory that the classes.
The system is detailed and should appeal to anyone that like more flavor to their AD&D combat.

We get a page on Social Encounters.
Next is an expanded Treasure listing and a section on ships and waterborne adventures. Something I could have used at the close of my AF&F 1st ed games to be honest.

The next 25 pages are dedicated to magic including a number of new spells for the new spell casting classes.

The Game Master's section is next, though it is not specifically called that.
New dungeon hazards are covered and then we get to magic item descriptions.

We end with some new monsters which include various Angels, Demons and some dragons.

All in all this is a good addition to the AD&D/OSRIC/LL-Advanced game. Even if you don't use everything here there is enough to make it worth your while.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
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Barrel Rider's 2012 Bundle
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:46:47
This is a great deal. 16 of BRG products. For 10 bucks you get Halflings: Tales from the Fireside, Archer, Half-elf, Swashbuckler, Half-orc, Dark Elf, Bandit, Bounty Hunter, Undead Slayer, Barbarian, Assassin, Dragon, Smith and Scholar, King Betrayed, Wanderer and the new (and not available separately) Combat Styles. Not a bad deal at all.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrel Rider's 2012 Bundle
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Wanderer
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:40:48
This seven page document details the Wanderer class. It's like a non-magical (and less combative) Ranger. It has some nice skills and powers and would work well in any game. What struck me is how quickly I was thinking of NPCs to fill this class and sending him in with my current Old School game. Lots and lots of potential with this one. Also unlike the other classes with have some archetypes I can relate to earlier editions, this one seems fairly unique to me.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wanderer
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The King Betrayed
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:40:21
This one was another surprise. It is an adventure for characters 3rd to 5th level. The art in this is greatly improved and the adventure itself looks like it is a lot of fun. Complete old-school feel. At 15 pages it is just about perfect for an afternoon.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The King Betrayed
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Sylvan Elf
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:40:01
This is one of the newer classes. Five pages, 1 for cover and 2 for the OGL, this is for wood or Sylvan elves. Like the normal elf, this one is part fighter and part spellcaster. But in this case the spell caster is Druid. To support this the package includes a 13 page document of spells. Actually it is really nice. To date this is one of my favorite of the BRG classes. It takes a very simple idea and gives you a simple (as in elegant) solution.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sylvan Elf
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Swashbuckler
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:39:35
I am not a fan of pirates. I know people love them, I never quite got it myself. For me it is always "ninjas" that get the vote. The Swashbuckler class allows you to channel your inner pirate. Like all the BRG class the book is not long (5 pages with 1 for cover and 2 for the OGL) but it gets right to the point and delivers a solid class. If you like Swashbucklers (and this one is more Erol Flynn and less Captain Jack Sparrow) then this is a good buy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swashbuckler
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Plague & Shadow: Wererats
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:39:05
All about Were-rats. Again this is not a class book, more of an indepth monster guide. There is history, new creatures and magic items. Not at all what I expected and I mean that in the most positive way. It was much more than I expected.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plague & Shadow: Wererats
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Minotaur
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:38:41
The Minotaur seems to be one of those classes/races that people either love or hate. Myself I am not a fan. BUT that doesn't mean that this is not a good class. It is one of BRG newer classes, so it is well thought out and written. Plus it is a good class. I mean there is nothing about it that says it is unplayable to me and I am sure that the people out there that love Minotaurs will be very happy with this. For me, I might "skin" it and make a Half-Ogre class.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Minotaur
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Mercenary
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:37:50
This one is really neat. It's a Starships & Spacemen class for starters. And it works great for that. In truth it is three classes that you can use how you need. This takes S&S from something that mostly "Star Trek" and makes it more Traveller. What I think is most interesting here is the market this opens up for BRG. Suddenly LL classes could now be converted to S&S classes with this template in mind.
I noticed the S&S compatibility license but not the OGL. Might need to add that.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mercenary
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Halflings: Tales from the Fireside
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:35:14
This one is a bit different. First it is longer than all the other books at 23 pages. This is guide on playing halflings and what you can do with them. It is actually a rather fun book. It even has an evil counterpart in a monster section.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Halflings: Tales from the Fireside
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Half-Orc
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:34:36
Another one of the missing races from the "Basic" versions of the books. The Half-orc is a fighter with some nice abilities to cause extra damage and fear in others. Compared the classic Dwarf and Halfling classes this one works quite well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Half-Orc
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Half-Elf
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2013 16:34:18
The Original Basic rules and the games they have inspired have missed one important race; the Half-elf. This race-as-a-class gives you a 15-level class that is a combination of fighter and thief. The class to me seems to be missing something, but I am not quite sure what. Thinking back to the Half-elves I have read in tales, this class would work fine.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Half-Elf
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