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Barrowmaze Complete $35.00 $29.00
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Barrowmaze Complete
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Barrowmaze Complete
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
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
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
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
Publisher: Greg Gillespie
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!]
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