||Bits of the Wilderness: Into the Open is a 74 page pdf product that is aimed at providing busy and harried GMs with plentiful descriptions and ideas related to open grasslands, plains and the like. Into the Open forms part of Tabletop Adventures' 'Harried Game Master' line, each product in the line related to another terrain or theme. This particular product features 100 bits (descriptions that can be randomly selected to describe open terrain) and 84 shards (more lengthy descriptions that are meant to be selected rather than randomly picked) of very flavorful and well-written descriptions.
The cover art for the product is identical to that of other products in the Bits of the Wilderness line, providing a 'series' feel to the whole line. It's by no means spectacular, but it captures the theme. Interior art is good, including a number of photographs used in an article about the plains and open terrain. The layout and writing cannot be faulted in this product, with excellent descriptions all round and solid presentation. Note that this product is not system-specific, in other words it hasn't been designed for d20 or GURPS or any other system, but provides generic descriptions for any fantasy system and setting.
After providing a useful introduction to the product and guidelines for its use, the pdf jumps into the 100 bits of the wilderness. While each bit is described in the main body of the pdf, each bit is also provided in a handy card format at the end of the pdf, so that it can be printed and randomly selected from a pack of 'cards'. The cards themselves provide descriptions only, so should be no more difficult to print than any black and white text. This is a useful feature for those wanting to make full use of the product. I think one of the best things about this product is the index - a list with page references that makes it really easy to select a particular bit or shard from the product. Want something about a tent, select bit 28. Want something related to flash flooding, then perhaps shard 65 will do. An extremely useful addition to the pdf.
The bits themselves are great. Very descriptive, evocative, inspiring and full of ideas to use and expand upon. Some of them were perhaps a bit leading, in the sense that instead of offering a simple description, it's almost certain that the descriptions contain something the characters may want to take a look at. While nothing wrong with that, some GMs may not wish to waste time waiting for characters to examine things when the intent was merely to provide a flavorful description. The bits are divided into a number of different sections related to different topics - general, signs of inhabitants, animals, weather, waterways and miscellaneous sights. It's very pleasant to read through these refreshing descriptions.
The pdf next deals with shards, longer bits that require DM considered selection before use. These include the same topics as the bits, although several other categories have been included such as times and seasons, campsite and prairie fire. These, like the bits, are wonderfully detailed and well-written, and each shard is provided with its own title to make the shard more unique. Shards provide some nice ideas to work with and the descriptions are useful to mine for other ideas and thoughts.
Lastly the pdf provides a very useful article entitled 'The Many Faces of the Plains'. A color version of the article is included in the product in addition to the normal copy in the main pdf text. The article examines a variety of aspects of plains, detailing them and explaining them with the aim to help GMs create their own plains environments and write their own descriptions. Very useful, informative, detailed and with lots of advice to DMs on using the plains in campaigns and adventures. Truly a strong pdf with lovely descriptions and ideas.
LIKED: This is a very good pdf with evocative and inspirational descriptive bits and enjoyable shards that can be used in any campaign. It's a valuable resource to any GM looking to add a good description to a game or setting, and there's more than enough information in here to keep any DM going for a long time. It's thoroughly enjoyable to read, the index is a great addition, there's plenty of variety, the article on plains was very informative and the cards for the bits make this even more useful.
DISLIKED: Not much can be said on the negative side, except that perhaps a few of the bits were too leading instead of being purely descriptive and probably more suited as perhaps shards, and one or two may blend in with others in a similar vein.
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[5 of 5 Stars!]