||Bits of Darkness: Dungeons II is a 83 page pdf product and one of several products in Tabletop Adventures' Harried Gamemaster line. This product follows on from and complements Bits of Darkness: Dungeons by providing a whole host of new descriptions for quick insertion into any game. The Harried Gamemaster line aims to provide GMs with tools that are easy-to-use and allow the GM to minimize preparation time by providing flavorful descriptions and encounters with ambience.
Bits of Darkness II comes with both a screen and print version, the latter being a rtf file that allows quick and easy cutting and pasting. Artwork is good and liberally (probably close to one per page) spread across the pages of the pdf, enhancing every room description with some very good visual art. Gillian Pierce provides a nice cover, largely the same as what's used in all the products in the Bits of Darkness series. Interior art by Jesus and Carmona is impressive in places. Editing is very good and the layout makes everything easy to use. A full set of bookmarks is included, as well as a complete table of contents, and a extremely useful index for finding pieces of description to suit a particular theme or topic. Presentation-wise a very good pdf.
Like other products in the 'Bits of' series, Bits of Darkness: Dungeons II is about descriptions that provide an easy way of adding flavor and theme to a particular encounter or just general area that a party are moving through. Dungeons II focuses on dungeons - underground constructed chambers and locations. The product presents a number of different types of descriptions, namely, bits, shards, bricks and splinters of the senses. The latter two are new to Bits of Darkness: Dungeons II. Bricks are rooms, encounters or traps that can be dropped into any dungeon in a premeditated manner, while Splinters are one-line descriptions that can add something of the senses (sights, sounds and smell) to an existing description. Bits and shards are descriptions of differing lengths, the latter more specific than the former.
Bricks are different in that they are more like single room encounters that come complete with d20 statistics for creatures or treasures contained. While some bricks are merely room kits without any mention of encounters, others are specifically encounters and traps for a designated challenge rating. The bits, as is usual for these products, are presented in card format as well so that they can be selected randomly. Splinters are also meant to be used in this way, and a table is provided to randomly roll and select a given splinter to add to a description.
The pdf starts with an introduction to the Harried Gamemaster line and the nature of the different pieces of description included in the pdf. It then dives into the bricks of the pdf, starting with several room kits. These kits include such areas as chapel of sacrifice, arena, kitchen guard barracks and my personal favourites, Schrodinger's room (complete with a disclaimer that 'No cats were harmed in the making of this product') and the Energy Gateway. The latter two are more 'puzzle' orientated chambers, and I'd love to see Tabletop Adventures do a series that included descriptions and solutions to various dungeon or cavern puzzles. Descriptions are wonderfully visual and inspiring, and give a real feel for what it would be like to stand in a given location.
The seventeen room kit bricks are followed up by 13 encounter and trap dungeon bricks. There are very descriptive but traditional dungeon encounters complete with traps, monsters and treasure for your d20 fantasy game. They're organised in order of highest to lowest challenge rating, starting at 17 and dropping down to 1, although the majority are in the higher CR range above 5 or 6, with only 1 (a neat encounter with drugged kobolds) that has a CR below 5. Examples include a volcanic workshop, a plant colony, scrag cave, haunted cells and a ingenious mirror trap that's bound to catch most players by surprise (although for a CR 8 trap, the initial Will save DC is very difficult to pass). A good selection of encounters and traps (although the CR selection is not the best), with excellent flavor and utility, and encounters with a lot of thought and creativity.
The bits are presented next, and 36 of these are numbered and included for easy use when a piece of description is needed. Again these contain wonderful flavor and descriptive elements, and also come in card format to be printed out and randomly selected. These aren't organised along any particular theme, but the index at the end is extremely useful if you want to actively select a bit. Active selection, however, is more suited to the 48 shards of this pdf, each presented with an appropriate title. The shards are organised into doors, stairs, dead ends, sources of water and rooms and provide DMs with a neat selection of different descriptive bits, some very evocative and alive.
The last sections of the pdf present the splinters of the senses. These are one-line description by Martin Ralya that can be used to add something of sight, sound or smell to a particular encounter or area. There are 99 of these, tabulated for randomly rolling, and provided a useful toolkit for the busy DM. Including these splinters, there are more than 200 descriptions, a fantastic trove of delightful words of descriptive power.
LIKED: The pdf is extremely useful and filled with descriptive flavor. Challenging and interesting encounters are presented in the bricks, while the bits, shards and splinters provide tantalizing words the increase the ambience of an encounter or location. An extremely useful pdf, for both the busy and not-so-busy GM. Good art throughout the pdf.
DISLIKED: The spread of challenge ratings for the encounters and traps is not the best.
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[5 of 5 Stars!]