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The Pine Barrens
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/14/2018 20:53:48

The Pine Barrens feels like a love letter to the slasher flicks of the 70's and 80's like Haloween, Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, and more. There are some really twisted scenes in this, but it's all good, as long as the players are up to a huge challenge. Even with a full party of level 8 characters, this adventure has a lot of potential for TPK's at every corner. You may wish to tone down the challenge of some of the combat and instead focus on the horror elements like the creepy ghosts, insane asylum inmates, witches, cultists, slashers, and all around monstrous denizens that wander the Turzee Island, including the infamous TURZEE DEVIL!

FEATURES:

  • Excellent artwork
  • Lots of player handouts to get them in the mood
  • Lots of great maps / cartography
  • Twisted dark encounters with creepy NPCs
  • Good variety of encounters and locations

If the DM puts another small village on the other side of one of the working bridges to the island for the players to use as a base of operations, this module, at over 100 pages of content, could easily last you several sessions of fun if not an entire campaign. This is written for Pathfinder but could also pretty easily be used for 5e or other OGL d20 based games, or even OSR / original edition games with a little minor tweaking. This is a great bargain for the amount of excellent content. Also the book is FULL of great player handouts, maps, creepy as hell artwork, and other content that you can use to evoke the "slasher flick" feel. Put on the soundtrack to Friday the 13th and dim the lights, and you're players will have nightmares for days!

This is part 4 in a 7 part series of very loosely tied adventures that began with Escape from Skullkeep Island. No prior experience with the earlier adventures is required to understand this, at all (there's little that ties them together other than the PC's). Each one of these had gotten progressively more and more sophisticated, and Pine Barrens is so far easily my favorite adventure put out so far by Dark by Dezign. It's quite the bargain given how much content is here compared to the price. You could do a lot worse than pick this up if you like dark fantasy and horror themed adventures. RECOMMENDED!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Pine Barrens
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The Pine Barrens
by Jeff J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/08/2018 20:46:44

Alright, so I just finished reading through The Pine Barrens. And to start with, I feel like if the DM is willing to put a little effort into it, it can be an interesting area. The villains are of a dark nature and it is easy to understand why they need to be defeated. The cult design under the wytch house is especially interesting and useful to me. The maps have a lot of detail, and most of the hand-outs look great. There are some very detailed area descriptions. There are several people to rescue. I expect that dealing with them will make for good role playing prompts.

I would like to recommend this to people that are going to be running anysort of steam punk campaign, since with only a few changes it might feel very victorian era.

Okay, so that said, there are a couple of things that I didn't like. First, lets talk about the maps. They look good, but there is no map key. I found myself questioning if I was looking at doors or not at several points.

Next, I want to mention the overland encounters/map. There are 3 bridges going from the main land to the island. I can not tell why this is, especially since there is no road going to the south bridge. Similarly there is a bridge going west to an island. This island seems utterly unremarkable. It has an encounter, but I am unsure as to why the designers decided to use page space to include it. There seems to be no reason for the bridge to have been created or for people go to that island. When we get to the Millisca House, an interesting line presents it's self. "you note that the nearest house is 100yrds away." Wait, there are other houses around? nothing was said about this. Note this would be a good place for a former community. The loggers, hunters and others that moved away needed some place to live after all. But nothing is stated about this. The house it's self is described as a trading company. There is very little in the way of storage area. What did they trade? where did they store it? Owners are dead, we may never know the answer to those questions. Finally, the cabin in the woods. This location seems hidden in the woods. The owners are described as general store owners who also took over the mortician business in the area. It is hard to believe that they would get that much business, in a building hidden in the woods. There is no road to this cabin.

Next I would like to mention the room/area descriptions. Many of these are very wordy. They do a good job describing what the players see. Often telling the players how they feel about a situation (not good). For overland descriptions, there is the occasional assumption about the time of day. (why are the heroes still out treking late at night?)

Finally, the adventure states that it ends when the players get to the bridge on the far side of the island. The adventure contains minimal wrap up notes however.

(On a side note the cabin in the woods is missing a description for area 18 and a description of where the portcullis's are. Also, nothing is said about the people in the tank in room 17.)

Final word, I feel there are some interesting ideas, and maps here. There are some wonderful chances for the heroes to be heroes. And there are a number of things that feel like they don't fit quite right. With a bit of work however, this could be an interesting area for the players to explore.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ghoul Well
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2018 11:12:52

TL/DR: Nice starter adventure for level 1 or 2 party that can be done in a single session, at a sweet price.

A murder most foul. A baron gone mad with jealousy. An island full of danger for those who seek justice. A boat load of treasure for a crafty band of murder-hobos.

PROS:

  1. Only $1 for 11 pages of actual content is a steal (excluding pages like covers, licenses, or credits).
  2. Nice mix of creatures to deal with.
  3. Cool maps and interesting areas to explore.
  4. Evocative artwork that captures the mood of this decidedly grim fetch quest.
  5. Nice opening story that is generic enough that could easily fit into most campaign settings with minor tweaks.
  6. Should be easy to convert to other d20 RPGs like 3.5e or 5e with little trouble.
  7. A good adventure for new DM's and/or a party of new Players.
  8. Leaves room for some follow up adventures (and promises to have 2 more sequels).

CONS: (No points removed for these because basically these are just things I wish were included and the author already gave a lot of value for the price)

  1. A few missed opportunities for some non-combat scenes that a seasoned DM could make minor changes to add.
  2. Could have used a few more maps and also some maps for VTT play added as JPGs to the package.
  3. There's some missing details about NPCs that can be encountered that could have added more depth to the story.
  4. Some of the encounters will most likely result in a party wipe of level 1's without making a few changes. New DMs or those with new players should take care not to overwhelm the PCs with too many creatures at one time unless they are being stupid.

CONCLUSION: You really can't ask for a better $1 adventure, and this is a sweet little starter adventure for a new campaign. Highly recommended for a DM starting off a new Pathfinder or 5e or other fantasy RPG game and needing content his players probably never saw before. The writing is solid and the artwork is good, and this adventure hits all the right notes for an engaging evening of fantasy role playing. I eagerly await more in this series! This adventure is especially good for new DM's who want something easy to run that will still provide some challenge for even seasoned players.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ghoul Well
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Slaughterhouse Of The Ogre Mage
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2018 07:00:43

TL/DR: A stand alone "oriental" adventure with really great art, good cartography, and plenty of player-handout material, bargain priced for the amount of content that is here.

You know Kung Fu? Well you better know some before taking on this blood soaked "drive-in double-feature" bounty-hunt reminescent of Kill Bill or other extremely violent Kung Fu movies. Do not enter this adventure without a big ass sword and a really strong stomach. Fans of really dark, violent action will probably really like this adventure. It really gives players a chance to cut loose with the carnage. Unfortunately it also seems like a good place for a GM to cut loose with the carnage against the players. A level 5 or even 6 party has about a snowball's chance in hell of surviving this adventure without copious pit-stops.

PROS:

  1. Lots of creatures and opponents here that are fun and rarely encountered in most published adventures.
  2. An interesting dungeon design that is quite surprising and intersting, with some really cool puzzles and traps.
  3. Enemies that are so nasty and arrogant they just have a "come kill me now, kill me a lot" sign written on them.
  4. Artwork is excellent, lots of cool "oriental" flavoring.
  5. Solid cartography and plenty of player-handout pages.

CONS:

  1. It would be preferable to have the maps as JPG files for easier use on VTT.
  2. Severe balance issues (see below).
  3. No real personal investment into the story for the PC's, somehow the GM will want to tie in the ogre magi's forces into the histories of the PC's so they really, really, want to kill them. All.

Balance Issues: For real I don't see how any 5 member party of level 5 standard Pathfinder characters could possibly make it through this grind house without using tactics like going in, surviving 3 or 4 encounters, going out, resting, going back and somehow the enemy hasn't really changed anything to tighten up defenses, doing a few more encounters, going out, resting, repeat. Which would make no sense, the Ogre Magi would start putting up more defenses earlier so it would completely change the "dungeon" layout and encounters, in my opinion. I feel like this adventure would challenge a party of level 9-10 characters. Even level 11-12 characters would not find it to be a cakewalk, and would have to rest a few times. Level 5's? They're going to get seriously murdered unless the GM is not playing the monsters to their full potential. Nearly every encounter has the potential for a TPK, and on top of that, a lot of the encounters are in close proximity to each other, and battles could cause enough noise to bring reinforcements that would ENSURE a TPK of level 5's. Admittedly I haven't run the adventure yet to verify what happens on a play test, but damn! I would suggest just waiting until your players reach level 8 at earliest before throwing this at them.

Conclusion: This is still a very solid adventure, I just feel that it's geared for a party of more competent characters if they want to really be successful. This adventure would not be hard to convert to 5e or 3.5e or other editions of d20 based role playing games. Even if you don't use this adventure outright, there's plenty of fun encounters here that you can borrow and transport into adventures of your own design, so you really can't beat the price tag for this amount of well written and interesting NPCs, enemies, and encounters. Not to mention there's some cool magic items and ideas for traps here too. I only took one point off for balance issues, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. This is billed as part 3 of 7 in a string of adventures but the adventures so far in the series have little to nothing to do with each other, so I'd treat it as a stand alone.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slaughterhouse Of The Ogre Mage
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Escape The Lair
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/23/2018 16:58:14

TL/DR: 75 pages of Tomb of Horror style dungeon romp for Pathfinder, or easily converted to 3.x or even 5e, with tons of great artwork, player handouts, and great looking cartography that will work well for VTT use.

Escape the Lair may have a simple name. Escape the Lair may have a simple plot. Escape the Lair may even have a simple villain. But what Escape the Lair does right, and what it has in spades, is a series of challenging encounters where players will need to use their brains more than their dice to prevent a total party kill. The villain for EtL is a lich, a twisted and evil one that seems to enjoy mentally torturing creatures as well as physical tortures. The lich taunts the adventurers that attempt to enter his lair, fully aware at all times of their progress. The lich has a demented mind, and it shows in the various puzzles and obstacles that he set up in his death-trap "lair". If the party survives this dungeon, they can count themselves fortunate.

Pros:

  1. Non-linear series of unique and interesting encounters that challenge the player's brain as much as the character's stats.
  2. Really good cartography that sets the mood and would work well for VTT.
  3. Lots of player handouts that evoke the proper mood as the lich taunts the characters and frustrates them to get them to make mistakes.
  4. Plenty of content for the price, a bargain!
  5. Easily converted to other systems especially flavors of DnD like 3.5 or 5e.

Cons:

  1. This could be a pro if you really want a true Tomb of Horror experience, but this dungeon probably will kill off a party of level 4 characters. I could actually see a TPK on the very first encounter being a strong possiblity. Be sure to bring a cleric.
  2. The setup as written for how the party gets into this adventure to me felt a bit contrived. I think if they discovered the caves on the mountain peak themselves and just decided to explore without any forknowledge of the "lich" would make for a better story, but YMMV. This kind of "Hook" is something almost every DM has to change anyway so I didn't take off any points for this.
  3. I would prefer to have high detail JPG files of the maps separate from the PDF but in a pinch a screen shot of the PDF page will work for VTT.

Conclusion: This is billed as part 2 of a series of adventures, however, there is little to no connection between the story presented in Escape the Lair and the one from Escape From Skullkeep Prison. A DM could probably make a connection if desired, but this actually works better as a stand-alone dungeon. This could easily be a starting point for a campaign that will end with a final confrontation of the lich villain who set this lair up, and perhaps Dark by Dezign will put out a follow up for this that does that very thing. I would recommend playing with characters that are at least level 5 so they have access to some decent spells and abilities; they will NEED it, trust me. Balancing issues aside, this has some really wonderful traps and encounters in it, and your players will be both thrilled and perhaps killed... haha... better keep a few backup characters on hand. :)

Highly recommended if you're looking for a challenging dungeon that will put your player's dungeoneering skills to the test. Not recommended if your players are babies that can't take a TPK. :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Escape The Lair
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Creator Reply:
Thank you very much for the entertaining review! I LOVE your idea about using the separate jpgs to use as player handouts in the way that you said. I am really going to try and carve out some time to ADD these to the DTRPG listings that have them. GREAT IDEA, and I will send them to you as well. Yes, it is a bit challenging. My first adventure, MURDER ON MONTELLIO was cool and fun and received some nice input, but I got the distinct impression that it was just a little bit easy. NOT A PUSHOVER, but not as much of a challenge. Perhaps I may have slightly overcompensated in areas of some adventures. Gathering this data, I am seriously considering doing the following with the 7-adventure, 500-page adventure Compilation. A fellow named Scott has offered some future suggestions to tie these together. It is not because I cannot think of these things myself, but with the KS project going on, and with other KS projects, I SINCERELY like to network and work with other KS backers and supporters. It really is fun! Also, perhaps I can share these adventures with you before I put them out for the public? I Do like your input. Also, I really am considering ADDING a small NPC “Bible” at the back of the compilation. This way, the GM can choose interesting and BRAND NEW NPCs to help HEAL (LOL) the party! I think that was a good point, and I do put in multiple healing potions in my adventures, but I hear ya! Anyway, thanks again for the invaluable input I truly appreciate it and I laughed out loud TWICE while reading thsi entetaining review. I was in Whole Foods and two ladies started laughing AT me because I was bursting out into two bouts of laughter, seemingly out of the blue! THANK YOU FOR THAT!! : ) Let me know if you would like to Preview these adventures? Seriously! Matt
Escape From Skullkeep Prison
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2018 14:22:06

TL/DR: This is a nice size adventure with lots of nice full color artwork that should take a few sessions to go through clocking in around 90 pages, at a price that is very economical.

PROS:

  1. Lots of memorable NPCs and creatures / opponents.
  2. Interesting plot that is mostly straightforward but enough twists to keep players on their toes.
  3. Interesting encounters throughout some of which are optional.
  4. Great full color artwork and some nice B&W artwork spread generously throughout the book, never feels like "wall of text".
  5. Very good cartography with detailed maps that would work well for VTT if they were separated from the PDF.
  6. Interesting new magic and magic items and other interesting items.
  7. Excellent player handout props that can help draw the players into the adventure.
  8. You get a lot of content for the price.

CONS:

  1. Maps should be separate JPG files to make it easier to use on VTT.
  2. Encounters seem really difficult for their CR. I think inexperienced players at level 1 party would most likely party wipe.
  3. A lot of the information is presented haphazardly in a way that reads ok but makes looking up things during play harder, could use a detailed index.

First of all, this adventure is more of a rescue mission than an "escape", just to nitpick the title a bit. I suppose you could actually easily change the scenario to be an actual escape if you wanted to use some higher level PC's and bump up the difficulty a bit by making them search for their equipment while escaping. The plot overall is straightforward, but there's a lot of characters here with their own motivations that can complicate things easily. Smart players will play off the various factions in the prison against each other. This adventure would be pretty easy to convert to 5e or other versions of DnD. This is part 1 of a series but there does not really seem to be much here other than possibly NPCs that would carry over after this mission is over, so it's also great as a stand alone adventure. This adventure would be pretty easy to scale up to challenge a higher level party, in fact I doubt that many level 1 parties will survive it. Overall I recommend this adventure as an interesting and "twisted" dark fantasy adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Escape From Skullkeep Prison
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, John. I believe this to be a 100% honest and fair review, which I greatly appreciate. Your input/suggestions are appreciated as well! I DO admit that I have to not be too cruel with the PCs and make it more possible to survive some encounters in some areas of my adventures. I really appreciate it, and will try to focus on this issue and perhaps next time will receive a 5-star rating in doing so! Thank you again, and have a great week! : ) Matt B.
Thank you, John. I believe this to be a 100% honest and fair review, which I greatly appreciate. Your input/suggestions are appreciated as well! I DO admit that I have to not be too cruel with the PCs and make it more possible to survive some encounters in some areas of my adventures. I really appreciate it, and will try to focus on this issue and perhaps next time will receive a 5-star rating in doing so! Thank you again, and have a great week! : ) Matt B.
Make Your Own Maps
by Robert L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/17/2017 11:57:10

I've spent about a dozen hours playing with Make Your Own Maps, and so far I love it! I had some trouble initially downloading the Photoshop files (they are massive), but Matt at Dark by Dezign quickly came to my aid. He is extremely responsive and helpful if you run into issues. As the publisher notes, you need to have Photoshop and be reasonably proficient at using layers in particular. I'm not a Photoshop expert by any means, but am finding Make Your Own Maps very intuitive and easy to use.

The "heart" of Make Your Own Maps is 3 Photoshop maps, each with an incredible number of layers. Simply by selectively hiding and displaying layers, you can modify the existing maps in a variety of ways, creating multiple floors and different variations. You can fill the buildings with furniture, add torches, keep them empty, etc.

It took me a while to get used to working with this many layers, but I created separate Photoshop documents with the items I was using frequently, which made it much easier to access and use them. Many of the items are very easy to modify without needing much artistic ability; I had fun using and modifying a bunch of items to make a medieval/fantasy tavern. It took me several hours, but I made a 24"x24" tavern with a cellar (and secret cultist lair), ground floor, second floor with sleeping rooms, and a third floor attic. The 300dpi resolution is good enough that details are crisp on a map this size, and at this scale it will look good with 32ish mm figures.

A very generous license is included if you want to publish maps yourself using Make Your Own Maps (you can freely publish as long as Dark by Dezign gets art credit). I don't know if I'll try that, but the maps I made (using mostly their items, with a few of my own added) look comparable to many other professionally published maps. It's very easy to integrate your own art given the way these files are set up.

Other than the dizzying array of layers that you need to sort through, this product is very easy to use (again, assuming you are decent with Photoshop layer use). There are a few items that seem out of place considering the rustic/medieval feel: a modern toilet, bathtub, sinks, and beds/bedding are the only options included that I could find. However, these can be modified with a little work. All the walls are wood, which makes sense for the three buildings, but I'd love to see stone walls as well. However, stone walls and some other accessories (e.g., a bar) were easy to create by modifying some of the items included. The grass and wood floors are a bit less "professional-looking" than the other items, in my opinion, but they are still decent. In my opinion, all of the other items that I've used look great, and are comparable to other professional level products.

The price (currently $30) may seem high, but considering the generous license included, this product is well worth it if you plan to use some of the items in commercial products. Even if not, for the quality it seems like an excelent value compared to many commercially available dungeon design programs. If you already use Photoshop to design maps, this product will save you lots of time and will help make them look great.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Make Your Own Maps
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The Ghoul Well
by Ben S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/24/2016 15:03:21

Neat little adventure, definitely a good one session adventure. I can't wait for the next 2.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ghoul Well
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, Ben. Sorry I did not reply to this earlier. I only recently found out that I could reply to reviews. The 2nd and 3rd parts will definitely show up! I am working on a project that has 20 short adventures, and this very well may see life again via that avenue. Thank you again for the nice review! Matt.
Murder On Montellio
by Todd H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2016 23:03:43

Excellent! An open-world romp with humor and ethical dilemmas. Great content to hand out to players and read to them. Looking forward to running it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Murder On Montellio
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Creator Reply:
THANKS a lot, Todd. This was my first published adventure and I apologize for not responding earlier. I foolishly did not know we could respond to ratings. Sorry about that, but thank you very much, man. Matt.
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