Bards and Sages RPG Resource
DriveThruComics
DriveThruFiction
Powered by DriveThruRPG


Home » Greg Gillespie » Reviews
Browse Categories













Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
You must be logged in to rate this
HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2019 20:00:28

If you like old school dungeon crawls, this is worth checking out. It is quite similar in tone and style to Gillespie's other efforts, meaning you get a ton of content, lots of maps (not always easy to follow/connect), lots of cool old school images, new monsters, assorted factions albeit not always well fleshed out, plenty of treasure (including gem sizes & quality), and a fair amount of typos. As others have noted, there are numerous references to the author's other modules, including directives to find monster stats there. A trifle annoying, but since I own those and have every intention of buying any future products he produces, it doesn't bother me much. It's true that the "ground setting" of the adventure isn't terribly well developed. But to me, that's not a problem since I'm dropping it into my home campaign setting anyhow. In fact, the drifting aspect is great because you can put it anywhere you want. It also makes this megadungeon a bit more modular than the others in terms of being able to easily come and go at your whim. You can just say "the damn dungeon moved" and come back to it later. You could also easily extract the wizard towers and dungeons on their own if you wanted a shorter experience. Another thing I love about this adventure are all the crazy book titles and random tables for generating your own in such settings. I've already made use of these in one of my own adventures. So while the setting depth and backstory might not be a developed as those of Barrowmaze or Archaia, the adventure makes up for it in broader flexibility and utility. Worth the price for the amount of usage you can get out it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
by Michael P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2019 08:06:52

An excellent dungeon adventure module wiith charming NPCs and setup. The factions seem to make sense and have useful interactions that can be exploted by the party. Encounters and riddles are also creative and in my opinion not too unfair.

It has a very detailed description of the floating part, I just wished that the on the ground bit would be a bit more fleshed out. Whlie it has interesting locations and proposed strategies to make it up to Highfell, most of these details (and the hex map) are up to the DM to fill out. Another small thing is the organisation where above and below ground dungeons are split into separate chapters, even if they are connected and logically the party would go directly from one to another (I haven't checked the PDF, some smart hyperlinking would solve that probably too). Small bit of complaint is also the number of "empty room" in some of the maps, which on one hand can be filled in on the fly with "kitchen","store room", etc. but it would have been nice to have a word or two describing them.

And last but not least a quite a few shoutouts to other products of the author and cross referencing tables in them. Most DMs probably just ignore the results and reroll, but it does take extra space with not much benefit.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HighFell: The Drifting Dungeon
by TIM D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2019 13:06:30

I've run two sessions of Highfell since getting my backer PDF last week. My players are loving it. I was able to jump right in after giving the adventure background and gazeteer a quick scan through. The adventure challenges players from the start. I find the wizard towers to be an interesting sandbox for players to explore.

The only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars is the requirement to have BARROWMAZE/FCOA if you want to use some of the monsters referenced in the adventure. Not a deal-breaker, but it would be nice to have in-line creature stats for those monsters.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5e
by Stephen A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/24/2019 02:17:41

Just fantastic. I was introduce to Greg's work as a PC in his The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia campaign run by a seasoned old-school DM at a local game store in Houston, Texas. After a single four-hour session (which ended with half the party dying,) I was hooked. I've since enjoyed the thrill of high-stakes D&D and wanting to DM something similar to it myself (without spoiling Archaia for me as a PC,) I was recommended this product: Barrowmaze.

I've run several sessions (one reaching over 7 hours long) and the players love plundering mounds, trying to survive in the trap-ridden Barrowmaze while making it back to the village of Helix with lore to share with the local Wizard, and exploring the larger region which is rich with gameplay opportunities. PCs can easily spend all the time they want exploring the region with interesting sites and events, without ever touching (what I think is the real meat of the game) the Barrowmaze.

I'm very impressed with the large amount of content presented in ~250 pages and love how Barrowmaze facilitates player-choice with an open-world environment. PCs do not feel railroaded or uninterested in a forced plotline, because they choose what they want to engage with and uncover both the story/history of the region - and - make up their own story as they go.

10/10 for content. 7/10 for hardcover book quality (I understand the publisher is separate from the Author) 5/5 Stars :)

Thank you!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5e
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete
by Kevin G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2019 23:01:45

Was forced to purchase this (and another of the creator's works) from a non-university source for a university course taught by the creator. It is full of the same mistakes that he criticises his students for making. Students were made to write reviews of his own dungeons and provide proof of purchase in order to submit assignments for university credit. I wish I could get my money back for both this and Forbidden Caverns.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia 5E
by Dave P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/09/2019 12:52:08

I'm going to begin by echoing Raj B. here: I'm roughly 70 pages into this 300+-page PDF and I'm so sick of the phrase "see Barrowmaze Complete" that I could scream. Even an entry in the back that says something like "Funeral Pyre Zombies -- see Barrowskin Complete or reskin Fire Snake from MMp265" would be an improvement. This was sold as a standalone product, not as a Barrowmaze supplement.

The maps are great, there are some good ideas (if not as fleshed out as I'd like), the writing is mostly clear. I'd like to see this designed better for use at the table-- inline stat blocks would be handy to avoid flipping back and forth and back and forth. Also, there's a tendency to give information a little late. Room 42 of one area says "A detachment of [enemies] normally guard this chamber (85%). If not, they may be training in #27-28." Think that might be worth mentioning a little earlier, say in #27 or #28? Me too.

If you're planning to buy one Greg Gillespie megadungeon, don't get this one. Buy Barrowmaze instead. It's not perfect, but it's good, much better than this.

If the publisher were to go through and make the other monster stats available as a free PDF or something, I'd probably rate this as 4 stars. As it is, I'll steal a few ideas/mechanics from this but I have no desire to run it for my players. When I'm paying $30ish for an adventure module, I expect that I'm paying for someone else to have done most of the work for me. That wasn't the case here.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia 5E
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete 5e
by Michael F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/20/2019 02:58:41

After hearing about this product on one of my podcast feeds, and watching a video review on youtube, I was excited to buy this product as I was in the market for a new 'megadungeon' to spring on my players. We were playing 5th edition and this product seemed like it would fit the bill. I'm writing a review of my impression of the product, as currently there don't seem to be any unbiased reviews. At the time of this writing, there is one glowing 5 star, and one sharply negative 1 star, which would seem to be confusing to other potential purchasers in my opinion.

My review specifically of the 5e conversion of the product, and not the original Labyrinth Lord version.

The Good- The content is very good, and sticks closely to the overall theme and story. The encounters are creative, the traps are devilish, and I'm sure the experience for my players will be memorable. In addition to the megadungeon, it includes new spells, magic items, monsters, gods, rival adventurers, a small town with NPCs for the heroes to use as a home base, and some info on the surrounding area- a TON of meat here. There is lots of artwork, including a set of illustrations to show the players, like in the old classic modules like Tomb of Horrors. The OSR influence is huge, in design and intent of the product, and I personally think its great. Well, the women at my table will be less than thrilled with the inclusion of a brothel in the starting town, but I'm not sure if I can knock off a full star for that. C'mon! There is even a random generator for creating additional barrows to explore! Overall for the content- 5 stars.

The Bad- Simply put the 5e conversion is not that great. In some areas its fine, but in other areas, its clearly lacking. The 'conversion' hews very closely to the old school style of play, so many of the 'errors' in conversion (maybe error is too harsh, design decisions instead?) are simply hold overs from the older style of play. But this could cause major problems for DMs expecting something closer to the current ruleset/philosophy of 5e. There are conversion issues in nearly all aspects of the book, and a potential DM needs to be aware to proceed with caution! It might work fine at your table as is, or you may need to do some adjusting, I just want to you be aware of the issues.

Here are a few examples so you know what I mean:

Numerous 'instant death' effects, ranging from no-save bottomless pits, save-or-die poison effects on monsters and most traps. 'Save of Suck' mechanics are not really prevalent part of the current system.

Most modifiers affecting play through new spells, specific encounters, or setting are giving in a +/-number format, no use of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic

No mention of which classes can use the new spells. Wizard? Cleric? What about Bards? No idea. Some are found in spellbooks, but others are found on scrolls so...a clear oversight on this one.

Pregenerated characters don't have starting occupations, and so don't have all the skills they'd normally have. Speaking of- they include a wizard, 2 clerics, 2 fighters, and a paladin. Maybe someone would want to play a Rogue in a trapfilled dungeon?

There are random treasure tables that refer to Labyrith Lord core rule charts. Oops.

The new gods don't specify what cleric domains are used.

The spells could have used some more editing and testing. Some are weak, some are unneccessary duplicates of existing spells, some are waaay overpowered. (a 2nd level no-save AOE incapacitation effect? No thanks! Not for MY players!)

There is way way way too much gold and magic treasure for a typical 5e adventure, including some very powerful items guarded by very weak monsters.

Monsters that are just... versions of an existing monster Why not use the existing one? (I'm looking at you "massive" scorpion, "brown" pudding, and giant vulture)

Overall, I'm not surprised by some of these issues, they seem to be more based on sticking with the LL version of the adventure (hmm this monster had a +3 greatsword, so I guess in this version the same monster will have a +3 greatsword too!) But you have to be careful with this type of conversion, as the editions don't exactly match up with how things play, if you know what I mean. But I was disappointed to find so many issues that I'll need to consider, but on the whole not unfixable - 3 stars

The Ugly- Its a $35 .pdf. Thats a steep price for an electronic product, and I'm sure that has people nervous about buying. But small print publishers have to get paid too! So... ??? stars

Overall, I'd give this product 4 stars, while there are issues with the conversion there is just so much good stuff here I think my players will have fun exploring the Barrowmaze, even if I have to change some of the spells and pull back on the loot. Hope the review helps, and GAME ON!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5e
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia 5E
by Raj B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2018 09:21:04

Overall this product should appeal to fans of OSR megadungeons. Forbidden Caves of Archaia is pretty well known in OSR circles, so its only natural that it was eventually converted to 5E. I saw this campaign on Kickstarter and immediately backed it. Seemed like a no-brainer.

Now for the problem that led to knocking the rating down from 4 or 5 stars to 3 stars. The monster stat blocks are very, VERY incomplete. Dozens of unique monsters have no stats at all and the DM is just instructed to "see Barrowmaze Complete". In effect, you're required to purchase an additional $35 PDF just to properly use the one you just purchased.

A DM can of course substitute any monster that they wish, but they are still given no help in the form of a CR rating or any other info. Just a name like "Juju zombie" or "Gemstone golem". Not very useful. The added prep time from poring over every chapter and plugging in your own monsters is both time consuming and drains the product of the unique flavor that you paid for in the first place. The stats obviously exist somewhere and this was almost certainly a cost cutting measure designed to keep the book's page count down and affordablility up. That's fine. But here are some possible solutions.

-Provide a "Recommended Monster Replacement" table. Just list the unique Barrowmaze monsters and the author's recommendations for OGL or MM monsters replacements. This would require at most 2 additional pages -Provide the missing stat blocks as a free PDF here on DTRPG. It could be completely free or free just to verified purchasers of the full book. Kickstarter backer like myself would be out of luck in the later case, but it would make new purchases of the Forbidden Caves of Archaia worthwhile.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia 5E
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete
by Grahame H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2018 05:37:26

A solid, classic exploratory style 'almost' mega-dungeon. The strong point of this module is the central undead theme, though some people might like a more varied environment to explore through. This module will certainly appeal to players who like undead though and is jammed pack with all sorts nasties from beyond the grave, both new and familiar.

This is a big dungeon and will certainly provide hours and hours of play. As a module of this size you'd expect some gems for encounters and interesting locations. This doesn't disappoint in this area, there are certainly some great encounters and locations in this dungeon.

The only faults with it for me is the way information is presented, it does not always follow the most logical sequence so might be a little inconvenient at times to scan during play. Most of the entries however are short and succinct, so this won't be too much of a problem. As an overall product, you can't go wrong with this. The author obviously put a lot of effort and love into it and it is jammed pack with great, old school art. It might not take you to the imaginative or evocative heights of Operation Unfathomable or Maze of the Blue Medusa, but if you love classic old school, exploratory style dungeon crawls this will hit your buttons. A solid choice for any fan of OSR games.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete 5e
by Christopher B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2018 18:15:41

BarrowMaze offers a massive amount of clever and creative content that will keep a gaming group engaged for years. The guide is comprehensive and offers a lot of detailed guidance while still giving the GM the room to adapt and change as necessary without getting bogged down in details. Not only can the book as written be played and replayed (because of the changing nature of the dungeon using the random encounter tables) over a long time for a very extended campaign, but parts of it can easily be dropped into your own existing campaign or used as a foundation to build your own unique megadungeon. It also does not need to be played straight through, while there is a very interesting backstory and campaign arc with various competing factions that can be followed to the final encounter, players can raid various parts of the dungeon in-between other adventures. This is an excellent product! And, while it may be a bit more expensive of a game supplement, it is worth the money for the amount of content and replayable activity it offers. Finally, I would like to address one comment from another reviewer who gave this campaign a ridiculously low rating because of the minor omission of a random dungeon restocking table--you can use your own random table, you can use the other random restocking tables, and the actual missing table (all 5 lines of it) is as follows:

For every room the players visit roll on this table: Restock (1d6) 1 - Monster 2 - Monster & Treasure 3 to 6 - Empty (1in6 chance of hidden treasure)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete 5e
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete 5e
by Daniel W. B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2018 10:33:03

I want to preface this review by saying that this is not intended to be a critique of the original megadungeon, written by Greg Gillespie, which from what I hear is an exellent product. It's also not meant to reflect negatively on DTRPG who have been very helpful during my expereince with this particular version of Barrowmaze. I alsp want it noted that the reason I'm wirting this is as a warning for all 5e GMs who might be interested int his particular product, since the faults of the product are quite hard to notice, unless you actively search the web (or scour the discussion page on this website) for info before buying the book/PDF. If you still want to but this, please, buy the original Labyrinth Lord version and just wing some conversions yourself.

Now, I was introduced to this product through Questing Beast's review of it, and it immediately chekced all the right boxes for me: osr, megadungeon, AND it has a DnD 5e version, which is bascily the only RPG I can find people to play around here. So, I jumped at the chance to buy it right away; both the PDF and the hardcover book. I then procceded to call my gaming buddies and prepare them for this epic new adventure I had just gotten for them.

I usually wait untill I've received the physical book to read the RPG stuff I buy these days, since I prefer a physical book... but I was curious to see some of the new monster stats and spells, so I skimmed the PDF version to get a taste of teh OSR goodness that was in store for me. This is where everything I had hoped was there was confirmed; the awesome art, the cool mosnters and weird spells. It was lovely. However, i soon discoverd a quite significant discrepancy; see, the book calls for the GM to use something called the dungeon restock table, a random table, to restock the dungeon when the players leave the dungeon to resupply. However, I couldn't find it anywhere in the pdf; not in the index or in the random tables part of the book. I assumed that one had to use the random monster tables and such, but to my astonishment I learned, thorugh a bit of googling, that the original Labyrinth Lord version of the book indeed had a distinct dungeon restock table to use. Double checking with Questing Beast video, you can actually see the index of the LL version, and it is clearly listed in the index.

This left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth; here I was, paying a premium price for a product, and because the conversion job had been done seemingly poorly by Rogue Comet, it was an incomplete one at that. That just didn't sit right with me. Worst of all, I haven't been able to find any coments from either RC og Gillispie as to a reason for why this table, that the book stresses is incredibly important for the adventure to fucntion as intended, was left out of the 5e version. To clarify, the 5e version still REFRENCES the table, and states how important it is, but it isin't included (on page 20)!

So, I did what any consumer should do in this situation; I contacted DtRPG and asked for a refund, which I'm happy to report that they were willing to give me.

Sad part is, all I want is to be able to give money for this product; it is what I've been looking for for a while. But, on principle, I refuse to buy a product that is incomplete, and as such can't in good conscious give money for this book. Could I make my own restock table? Most likely, but that is not the point of this; the point is that I'm not so desperart as to pay for something that is lacking crucial features, stated by the product itself. It's quite embarissing really. I will be linking this review on reddit and other places, so as to warn others that they shoudln't pick this up unless the product is fixed, or at the very least an official comment is made which explains this issue.

I hope that I one day will be able to rewrite this, in a more positive light, for a product that hopefully gets the fixes it so obviously needs and desrves. And if these fixes are coming, you can bet that I will be making a new order.

UPDATE: So, I've been in contact with RC. This is their email response:

Hi Daniel, I alerted Greg Gillespie (the book's author) about this issue a year ago. He had taken over maintaining the product after the Kickstarter was over and owns all rights to the book, so only he can address this issue at this point (I can't legally change anything and don't have access to the DriveThruRPG product page and books source files; only Greg does).

-- Stan

So it seems that the only person who can fix this issue is Greg Gillespie. I've tried contacting him through this products discussion board, since I can't find any other way of contacting him.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2018 01:19:37

If you like traps, tricks, and hordes of undead, then you'll enjoy this adventure. It differs from some of the standard dungeons in that it's basically horizontal. There are dozens of small barrow mounds scattered around a larger dungeon complex. There is a brief backstory and a generic, yet fairly useful setting provided that can be easily dropped into most campaigns. There are also some helpful hints on dungeon exploration (bring a sledgehammer) and alternate rules for things like turning undead in this necromantically charged environment. A variety of new monsters and magic items add flavor to the adventure and serve to keep even veteran players on their toes. The author also makes it a "living dungeon" by adding rules for re-stocking and including assorted rival adventuring parties.

In terms of the adventure itself, it is generally a sandbox where parties can go where they choose. But there are potential larger goals and more dangerous foes if they delve into the Barrowmaze proper. While it suggests that beginning characters could play and gain levels while going back and forth from the dungeons, I'd suggest at least 3rd-4th level characters to start. There are lots of traps and lots of monsters. And the special undead turning rules can quickly render clerics, especially low level ones, pretty impotent. On the positive side, there is lots of treasure to be had, perhaps too much in fact. Smaller parties might level up fairly quickly if treasure is counted for experience by your DM.

With respect to extras, the book is full of great old school style pictures, reminiscent of those in Tomb of Horrors. And many are gathered in a single section at the back. Stats are provided for most monsters right in the book, along with those for key NPCs. There are even a few new deities presented that could be easily slotted into most campaigns. The random dungeon dressing, pit content, and other tables at the back will also be of use far beyond this adventure for most DMs. In short, this is a hack and slash extravaganza, with some opportunities for problem solving thrown in. It is technically for Labyrinth Lord, but can be played with 1st/2nd edition AD&D or any of the standard OSR games. And for what you get and how much time it would take to play the whole thing, it's worth the price of the hardcover, let alone the pdfs. Certainly more creative and interesting that the stuff a certain West coast game company churns out these days.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2018 23:46:06

This is a very big (indeed, mega) dungeon crawl in a sandbox style with a bit of a twist. The caverns are spread out as an ancient sunken city in a canyon. There is a larger meta-plot for the players to foil. However, it may be quite difficult for them to figure out exactly what it is, given the scattered nature of the clues. In fact it can even be a bit daunting for the DM because of the organization of the book. A clearer explanation of the machinations of the villains and how the party can stop them would have been nice. One can figure this out, but it takes a fair amount of flipping back and forth through different sections of the book.

That being said, this might be considered Keep on the Borderlands on steroids. There are all kinds of lairs, ranging from multi-level complexes inhabited by humanoids and giants, to smaller ones filled with assorted critters and undead. There are a fair amount of traps and tricks, but not as many as in Barrowmaze. Descriptions are minimal, but most of the dungeon areas have themes that provide enough mood for a skilled DM to supply details. There are factions that might be played against each other and a few NPCs that might join the party. There is enough variation that I can see my group enjoying this for months. The monsters range in strength from fairly weak humanoids like kobolds up to giants. Still, I would recommend starting this with characters of at least 3rd-4th level since there is a lot of combat involved. In terms of treasure, I'd say that it doesn't offer as much in the way of magic as Barrowmaze, but there's lots of coins and gems. And the gems are always identified by type, size, and quality for people who might be into that. So if your game uses treasure xp, then they can come back frequently, returning to their home base to level up. I'd say that one could easily gain 5 levels or more (starting at 3rd) by completing this adventure.

The larger setting is okay. There is a fairly generic town, briefly detailed, and descriptions of deities and humanoid hordes. The best part about it is that it can be seamlessly dropped into your own campaign world. I've already identified spots for this adventure and Barrowmaze in my campaign world though we haven't actually played either module yet. The new gods are interesting enough and the inclusion of some of their followers helps tie the different dungeons together. There are lots of new spells, magic items, some new monsters, and optional rules for magic, etc. Some of these are better than others, but on the whole, they are pretty good. Most, but not all, monster and magic item stats are included herein. A few are from Barrowmaze. This may irk some players, but both are great dungeons and I don't mind buying them both, even at this high price point for the hardcovers. The maps are pretty good overall, though the hex ones can be difficult to follow as they cover a lot of terrain and are spread over many pages. There are lots of useful illustrations; many gathered together towards the back of the book. I'd have preferred them right in the appropriate text area for ease of play, but this is by no means a deal breaker. There are plenty of random encounter tables, including encounters that are purely atmospheric, which is great. Pre-generated characters and rival adventuring parties are also provided. There are a few too many typos, but fewer than one finds in many of these publications nowadays.

Overall this is a very good product. It offers plenty of action, some problem solving, and a plethora of foes in true old school fashion. It can be easily used with any of the standard OSR rule sets or 1st/2nd edition AD&D, though it is technically written for Labyrinth Lord. Highly recommended if you like killing bad guys and taking their stuff!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete
by Daren C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2017 17:57:50

I wrote this up on my blog so I thought I'd share it here:

DOOM IN THE DARK Careful exploration, sudden traps, overwhelming foes, a ready shovel and sledgehammer. Torchbearers running screaming into the darkness. It's the Barrowmaze. This dungeon has helped facilitate a classic "Old School" style of campaign unlike any other I've run. It is perfect for short episodic sessions online using a traditional D&D ruleset. Using the magic of Roll20 and Google Hangouts my friends and I are nine sessions or so into a nicely emerging campaign.

I mostly run Type V D&D because that's the game people know; it's the new and shiny, but I've been reading ORS gaming blogs for years, wondering if that sort of mythical "old school" dirtbag style of play would really work for me. It requires a different set of assumptions than a more heroic high magic style game.

A few months back I picked up the 261page megadungeon Barrowmaze Complete via the Kickstarter for the forthcoming sequel. I'd been thinking about it for years and the magic of Kickstarter hype got me to pull the trigger. That and the epic cartoon trailer.

Barrowmaze makes a great set up for this style game, it's a complete campaign setting: Starting in a dirty little village on the edge of a backwater duchy, the dungeon delvers wake at dawn to make their way to Barrow Moore, where ancient barrow mounds hide entrances to a sprawling maze beneath. The goal is to get in and out with a bit of treasure, get back to town and spend it on carousing!

EPISODIC One of the really nice design decisions of the Barrowmaze is that it is a single level, with multiple points of entry. The bane of big dungeons is that the whole thing can get bogged down when the characters are trapped in the dungeon, unable to recover and unable to vary the play over multiple sessions. The way Barrowmaze works out is that the players discover more entrances the further East they go, deeper into the surface map. Some entrances are discovered from the surface. Others have been discovered as an escape from below. On the whole, it makes for a nice session, into the dungeon, back out, makes some carousing roles, count up XP. There is a bit of a story to the Barrowmaze, but its secondary to the players' story. That said, this dungeon can be defeated, and it would be pretty satisfying to do so!

A PROCEDURAL GAME Wandering monster rolls are crucial to this dungeon. Loud noise triggers rolls. And it creates a time pressure. Should they break down that wall or move on? Should they search through all the burial nooks? Wandering monsters can add up quick as well, and players have fled from an encounter with Sapphire Skeletons or Coffer Corpses ("They just won't die!"). This is a dungeon that is enhanced by keeping track of time, torches, and rations.

EVERYTHING IN IT'S RIGHT PLACE The book is pretty self-contained. Most of the monsters featured have descriptions and stats (for Labyrinth Lord which works fine for my rules) in the back of the book, as do magic items and key spells. Tables for treasures, dungeon dressing, rival tomb robbers, and re-stocking are included as well. Best of all, there is a large section of handout art to show players for particular rooms and encounters. I've always really like these sort of additions. Of course, the art is really good.

HOT STYLE The writing and art direction are really great. The visual theme on a whole makes me think of a cartoon version of death metal album. The writing is brief, useful and friendly. There's a bunch of sidebars telling stories of the author's games, which is amusing and serves to highlight the intended play style. The illustrations are all black and white, heavily inked drawings. It's mostly very useable, with illustrations of the things you want to be able to show players.

EXCEPT A FEW THINGS... Overall, this is a book I was able to sit down and run multiple games with hardly any preparation, so the book is obviously organized well enough, but I have a couple of quibbles. There's a few funny decisions on organization. The special rules for things like barrow exploration and runic tablets are sort of buried in the book, just before the Barrow Mounds section. It makes sense to read, but in play I wish is was collated in an appendix in the back. The other quibble is with the dungeon entrances, or rather the exits. The Barrow Mounds section clearly states where each stair down appears in the maze, but sometimes I have players discover an entrance from below, and the map has no indication of what mound # it goes up to. So, the DM makes some notes.

The maps are simple and mostly clear. I did run into a moment last session where the group unexpectedly made it to room 100, which which nicely spans the gutter of the book. In the moment it was hard to figure that one out! The map is a huge sprawling affair that spans six pages, but in the book it is divided into slightly themed sections, with limited travel from one to another. The result of this is that each section could be taken out and used as it's own small dungeon complex in your own campaign world. It also means you can wrap your head around a particular constellation of foes if you know where your players are heading next session.

THE PLAYS THE THING There's been some criticism about the price of this product. It is overpriced, and indeed that held me back for a long time despite really liking what I saw in terms of style and design. Through play I've found that I've used this book more than many rpg products I've bought, so I consider it well worth it in the end. Any rpg book is worth it if you actually play it a lot! I've been continually stoked on playing in this dungeon and hope to keep it up for awhile yet!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barrowmaze Complete
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Barrowmaze Complete
by Greg W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2015 21:50:38

Introduction [This review is spoiler-free, as regards story, monsters, and NPCs. However, a few villages will be generically described, and the number of dungeon locations will be given.]

I ordered Barrowmaze Complete on 5/16/2015 and received it via USPS ten days later. The binding is of the highest quality, apparently the same binding that existed for the Kickstarter copies. Some images of the product are at the following links (or just search for “Barrowmaze Complete” on Google images):

http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=69622 http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=58367&start=30#p1588647

The above images match my product exactly.

Gazetteer The Gazetteer for the surrounding towns and settlements, new to this ‘Complete’ product, is excellent. The geography includes 3 settlements, 3 rivers, 3 forests, a very large swamp, and a mountain range, all indicated via text description and hex map. The three settlements are Bogtown (village), Ironguard Motte (town plus castle), and Helix (village). The first two are detailed in a page or two each, whereas Helix is very detailed - at least eight pages of text description - and includes a village map with numbered locations. This is important, because Helix will be the PCs main base camp as they travel to and from the Barrowmaze. About forty NPCs are described across these three settlements (with handy pictures for fifteen of them, and stats for 22 of them), and the map for Helix details about sixteen places to visit. Nine deities are described, and interesting interrelations between them and their followers are included (basically, old gods vs. new gods). Many NPCs are members of different religious, mercantile, or political organizations or factions (some legit, some shady), which sets up the potential for quite a bit of intrigue and player intervention, if they’re looking for it. (There’s no ‘story’ per se, just real-life connections that can be discovered and exploited by resourceful players. There is a backstory for the Barrowmaze, of course; its history is neatly laid out in about five paragraphs.)

The Megadungeon As for the dungeon itself, there are about 70 barrow mounds to visit just below the surface of the swampy Barrowmoor (all located on a single hex map, but each one individually described, many with multiple rooms and corresponding mini-maps). But this is just the introduction, as there are a further 375 locations in the much deeper Barrowmaze itself, which are also described and keyed to a lavish map that spans six pages. (BTW, purchasing the pdf product gets you the entire book, plus black-and-white and blue-and-white maps of the Barrowmaze in separate, one-page files.)

After the megadungeon proper there are descriptions of new magic items, spells, and monsters, six pregenerated characters for player use, seven fully-statted adventurer parties the PCs might encounter, a blank character sheet, an illustration book with 36 illustrations (each referenced in the text of the megadungeon itself), about seven random tables, and an excellent random crypt generator (in the spirit of the multi-step dungeon generator in the AD&D DMG, but contextualized for the Barrowmaze environment). There are adventure hooks, a random rumor table, four new treasure types (death masks, funerary figures, scarabs, canopic jars), and nine factions described (along with their interrelations, should the PCs want to take sides).

Art and Layout Artwork is abundant and well-placed, picturing dozens of evocative scenes and situations. Fourteen artists are at work here. There are multiple, gorgeous full-page pieces, half-page pieces, quarter-page pieces, and smaller square pieces, all scattered throughout the volume. The new monsters are individually statted, described, and illustrated in their own section. The layout includes fixed headings appropriate for the ‘section’ of the dungeon you are in, so that you can quickly flip through the book and know what section you’re in based on the heading at the top of the page. Adding this was a nice touch. The amount of text devoted to each dungeon location hits the sweet spot that avoids two extremes: ‘so detailed that my players will get bored while I review it all’ and ‘so sparse that I wonder why I bought this product.’ In every location description, both the name of the location and any monsters there are in bold, so that they jump out at you from the page. Any monsters have their stats given in just a line or two (OSR style), so that you don’t have to pull out any monster manuals if you don’t want to.

Concluding Thoughts This is a multi-year campaign in a book. It is an obvious labor of love. The production values are through the roof: binding, layout, descriptions, art, full-color cover. Even the ink is dark, genuinely black rather than faded, so that the text crisply stands out and the artwork pops, yet there is no bleedthrough to the other side of the page, because the paper is high quality. Yes, there are a few typos, particularly in the Gazetteer section. But if this product doesn’t deserve five stars - easily deserve it! - then no product deserves it. I also own the Dwimmermount hardback (Kickstarter supporter) and Castle of the Mad Archmage, and Barrowmaze Complete compares quite favorably to these: more detail than Castle, not as unwieldy as Dwimmermount. (Don’t get me wrong: these other two products deserve five stars as well.) I plan on running this in Swords & Wizardry, though it is statted for Labyrinth Lord.

What follows is a full table of contents for Barrowmaze Complete, for those who only have Barrowmaze I and II. I have blanked out descriptions that could be construed as real spoilers. Greg Gillespie worked hard on this; no need to spoil it in a review:

Credits and Acknowledgements.................2 Preface..................................3 Table of Contents...........................3 Introduction...............................4 Gazetteer................................6 Religion, Faith, and The Gods.................8 Towns and Settlements.....................10 Bogtown...............................10 Ironguard Motte .........................11 Helix.................................12 Personalities of Helix......................16 The Campaign Begins.....................20 Adventure Hooks.........................20 Barrowmaze Random Rumor Table.............20 Running Barrowmaze........................21 Barrowmaze New Treasure Types.............24 Barrowmaze Factions......................26 Barrowmaze: Endgame....................27 The Barrow Mounds........................28 The Barrow Mounds Hex Map...............29 Area One: ..........61 Area Two: .................81 Area Three: .............94 Area Four: ........100 Area Five: .............103 Area Six: ................112 Area Seven: . . .124 Area Eight: ...............139 Area Nine: ....153 Area Ten: .........157 ........................166 ....................167 _____........................168 New Magic Items.........................169 New Spells.............................174 New Monsters...........................177 Pregenerated Characters....................202 Rival Adventuring Parties....................204 Barrowmaze Character Sheet.................209 Barrowmaze Illustration Book.................211 Maps..................................234 Random Tables...........................240 Table 1: Barrowmoor Random Encounters.......240 Table 2: Brazen Strumpet Random Patron Generator........................241 Table 3: Dungeon Dressing.................242 Table 4: Pit Contents.....................243 Table 5: Graffiti.........................243 Table 6: Runic Tablet Result.................243 Table 7: Dungeon Restock..................243 Table 8: Sarcophagus Contents..............244 Barrow Mound Random Crypt Generator.........245 Open Game Content.......................253

Further differences between earlier incarnations of Barrowmaze (I and II) and Barrowmaze Complete are listed at the Indiegogo site for this project:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/barrowmaze-complete-official-miniatures-by-ow#/story

Just scroll down to ‘New Material’ to see the list.

Yes, it’s expensive. I don’t know what to say about that. Junk is usually cheap, but good things often cost more. I could only afford this product because I was the proofreader for Richard LeBlanc’s Creature Compendium, and part of the cash he paid me went toward paying for this. And this is now one of the highest quality products I own. But paying for this should be easy if you’re smart. Just get five players to pony up $10 each for years of gaming. Cover the remaining $25 yourself and you’ve got yourself a deal.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Displaying 1 to 15 (of 27 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
Powered by DriveThruRPG