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Dungeon Crawl Classics #13: Crypt of the Devil Lich
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:52:38

This is a very high-level (and hence deadly) adventure that originally was run as a competition dungeon - the 'First Annual Dungeon Crawl Classics Open Tournament' - at GenCon Indy 2004, and comes complete with competition scoring notes and pre-generated characters, although you can of course use your own if they have reached the dizzying heights of 15th level. It is, of course, a dungeon crawl to end all dungeon crawls, designed to challenge players every inch of the way. The Publisher's Note at the beginning describes the glee with which it was created, with several developers contributing a few rooms to make the ultimate challenge.

The adventure is quite straightforward: the party has to penetrate the Devil-Lich's crypt to stop her regaining her power according to a prophecy. The action, as usual, starts at the entrance to the dungeon, but there are a few suggestions as to how the party got involved in the first place. The background provides details of how the Devil-Lich came to be as well as explaining what's really going on, which is somewhat different from what the party is led to believe...

On then to three levels of trap- and puzzle-filled dungeon designed to challenge and test the most mighty and cunning adventurers. There's a crazed vampire scrawling comments on the wall, heed them, they may help. And there are bits of a paladin's sword scattered throughout the place, apparently gathering them and putting it back together give a weapon capable of defeating the Demon-Lich.

The whole adventure is well-resourced: good clear descriptions, evocative 'read aloud' text (to the level I suggest using it verbatin rather than paraphrasing), and a spectacular array of handouts. Monster statblocks and the game mechanics relevant to traps are provided just where you need to refer to them. As a tournament, the three levels should be run separately, and the party starts each level at full strength; if you play straight through the characters will be at a disadvantage.

Groups which enjoy puzzle/trap dungeons and who look to slay everything they see and then loot them will have a blast with this. Some may even survive. Every trap can be evaded or defeated, the trick is figuring out how... sometimes a bit of help may be necessary to set the party on the right path. Progression through the complex is also rather reliant on making the right choices and again guidance might be advisable lest the game end prematurely with a baffled party unable to proceed. Should they reach the climax of the adventure, an epic and cinematic brawl with the Devil-Lich herself ensues. She can be defeated, but probably at the cost of a party life or two. Some examples of how she was defeated during the competition are given, but it's likely other parties will come up with their own resolution. Reward initiative and lateral thinking! It's a classic of its kind.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #13: Crypt of the Devil Lich
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Conan the Barbarian
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2018 10:24:28

Being a barbarian isn't about being rough, rude, violent and uncultured... it speaks of a rugged vitality that more civilised places seem to have lost. This book surveys the 'barbarian' lands of the north: Asgard, Vanaheim, Hyperborea, and Cimmeria (where Conan himself came from). Legends, lore and facts swirl together to present new realms in which adventures may be set, along with a complete system for barbarian raids, and much more.

After a brief introduction showing how the north has been the subject of academic study from Conan's time onwards, we launch into Chapter 1: Barbarian Characters. This is filled with detailed notes and resources for anyone wanting to play a barbarian character, including backgrounds and castes specifically suited to them. The idea is that you use the standard system as given in the core rulebook, but swap in the new options as appropriate. New archetypes include bards and slavers, and there's plenty more to help you create an effective barbarian-themed background for your character. There is new equipment too, items unique to the north and well-suited to its rigours.

Next, Chapter 2: Gazetteer - the main part of the book - presents a detailed view of the lands of the north. History, notes about the peoples that dwell there, far more than a mere description of the geography and settlements of the region. There's a wealth of information here: tribal customs, beautiful maps, notable places to visit and people to meet, and much more to make the north come to life as a place to visit or one to call home.

This is followed by Chapter 3: Events, which presents a series of events that Northern characters are likely to know about and have probably attended, and which visitors can be caught up in, like it or not. Traditions, cultural forces: events and challenges and occurances that can catch the party up and remind them of where they are. There's the Thing, a week-long festival that mixes trading, sporting contests, law-giving, feasting and more in a dizzying kaleidoscope, replete with opportunities for adventure (particularly for parties that like intrigue). Many people are nomadic or seminomadic, so migrations can form a large part of their life - and provide consoderable scope for adventure. This chapter also deals with raids - a major part of barbarian economy. It's a bit abstract on the grounds that raiding is decidedly unheroic. Still, there's ample material for running a raid which the party may come across or get caught up in. There are also some notes on ship battles - think Viking longboats.

We next take a look at Northern beliefs and traditions in Chapter 4: Myth and Magic. Some of their habits seem strange to outsiders, it's fun to play on this as a character from barbarian lands, or spring them on a party visiting the region. This is followed by a chapter-full of Encounters - a selection of NPCs, animals and monsters the party may meet during their travels.

Chapter 6: Hither Came Conan serves as a potted history of the great one's early years (including a character sheet from around the time he left the north), and this is followed by Chapter 7: The Barbarian Way. This discusses running campaigns involving barbarians - perhaps a war band or raiding party, or the young adventurous individuals from one settlement or tribe. There's loads of ideas for things that might go on during such a campaign, many of them common milestones and happenings in barbarian life such as rites of passage, courteous behaviour when a guest, social contests like boasting or riddle games... and the way in which barbarians wage war and comport themselves on the battlefield. Not to mention the duels that occur when nights are long and tempers run short. There's a vast list of events to liven up carousing. Finally, the last short chapter contains a detailed write-up of a barbarian character - perhaps the party will meet her, or one of the group fancies playing her.

If your campaign ever looks north, or you have a party member who wants to be a barbarian like Conan himself, this book will become essential, in the meantime it provides useful information about a fasincating part of the campaign world.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan the Barbarian
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Conan: The Book of Skelos
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2018 08:59:28

In most fantasy games, magic is embraced as a useful tool, the use of which any character might aspire to, with many respected practitioners and often centres of learning where budding magic-users may study. It's not quite like that in Conan's world. Magic is scary, often evil, and many of those who wield it are power-hungry villains using their power to further their own selfish if not wicked ends. For most, magic is a black art to be feared and avoided.

This book, however, provides you with an enhanced set of rules to enable magic to feature large within your game. You may wish to increase the threat posed by wicked wizards, or perhaps one or more player-characters wish to learn dark secrets against the advice of everyone who knows them, and probably even their mothers.

Part of the introduction is 'written' by an academic from Miskatonic University in the 1930s, reporting on his study of the legendary tome, the Book of Skelos. Then the nine chapters that make up the work are described. These include the history of sorcery, a collection of magic artefacts, and an array of 'horrors' that will leave you quaking in your boots if not scared clean out of them. If that's not enough, there's also a section on Kingdoms of Dream and Nightmare: spirit and dream realms that the brave may visit... if they dare.

For those characters who wish to study sorcerers - or maybe become one themselves - there is a chapter on Sorcerers in the Mortal Kingdoms, covering the different types of magic that have arisen and where, as well as another chapter about Sorcerers and their Followers. This explains how sorcerers form cabals and societies, gather followers, and - inevitably - plot and scheme against one another. Aspiring sorcerers will find Chapter 6: Advanced Rules for Sorcery of use. It contains new origins, archetypes and backgrounds, and delves further into how sorcery is done, along with new forms like necromancy, astrology, mummery, and herbalism.

There is also a chapter on running sorcery campaigns. Sorcerers are about as hard to herd as cats, so this section contains ideas and advice about guiding them, and of course the forces and goals that may be applied. Finally, there's an extremely detailed sorcerer character - Serafus of Numidia - which can be used by the GM or indeed a player. He's quite young as sorcerers go, but from a wealthy family and eager to search out knowledge wherever it may be. Perhaps he'll hire the party to find an item or volume for him, or even come along for the adventure. As a player-character, maybe he has decided that the best way to discover further knowledge is to become an adventurer himself.

Even if sorcery takes a background role in your game, or is practised only by a few antagonists, this is an excellent work to bring sorcery to vivid life on your tabletop. Once you have a major villain who practises the dark arts, or a player who wants their character to venture into these dangerous waters, it really comes into its own.



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Conan: The Book of Skelos
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #12.5: Iron Crypt of the Heretics
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2018 08:12:27

This adventure is notable as it is a direct sequel to an earlier one, The Blackguard's Revenge, which told the tale of a bunch of undead attacking the headquarters of an order of paladins. Whether or not your party was involved in that adventure, which (hopefully) saw the undead sent packing, they may be called upon to seal a further crypt to prevent even viler evil powers from getting loose. Trouble is, the crypt in question was designed by the best thieves and wizards money could hire to be impenatrable, and to seal it securely, first they must get inside!

There's a dire warning: the traps in the dungeon are not designed to be survived! So the party needs to take care, there are no convenient escape routes built in. The DM's notes also cover such things as wandering monsters and scaling the adventure for tougher or weaker parties than the 4-6 characters of 11th-13th level envisaged; and provides some suggestions for involving the party particularly if they haven't played The Blackguard's Revenge.

The background explains that the Iron Crypt of the Heretics was built with a three-fold purpose: to house the bodies of the heretical blackguards, to serve as a library for the religious tracts declared by the Church to be false beliefs, and as a storehouse for evil artifacts and cursed magic items brought back by questing paladins. In The Blackguard's Revenge, the first section was breached and the deceased blackguards raised as wights. The other two vaults remain, but the aggregation of evil stuff down there is fermenting and brewing a nexus of great evil... and something needs to be done before it erupts to scatter and cause problems across the land.

As usual, the adventure opens with the party standing outside the Crypt (and despite the dangers probably quite eager to get in, seeing as there's a blizzard howling around them). The whole place, excellently described, is full of traps for even the wary, never mind the unwary, and clear thought as well as strong sword-arms and ready spell books will be required to win through. There's quite a lot of reliance on doing the right thing in the right place... it's often not obvious, and the text suggests the use of appropriate Knowledge checks to 'remember' something about the situation that will provide the necessary information. You may find it necessary to drop hints when rolls are flubbed.

If you like well-described dungeons that are jam-packed with ingeneous and deadly traps, then this one awaits. Everything hangs together well, with the traps being well designed in a mix of clockwork and magic that - if magic existed - could work if you went and built them. Five pregenerated characters are provided, although the layout is messy and to make them usable it's best to copy them out onto a character sheet before use. Good handouts, including a few 'this is what you see' illustrations, and clear detailed maps complete this adventure.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #12.5: Iron Crypt of the Heretics
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #12: The Blackguard's Revenge
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2018 08:41:55

Usually, paladins come to the rescue of ordinary folks beset by evil... but what happens when the paladins themselves come under attack? In this adventure, the party comes to THEIR rescue!

One of the key points in the DM notes (along with the usual overview, wandering monster list and scaling guidance) is mention that this adventure is not your regular delve with a dungeon (or other place) to explore. This is a dynamic setting with lots going on, and the party will have to figure out where they will be most effective - and avoid those places where overwhelming odds would, well, overwhelm them.

On to the detailed background, which explains how the current situation arose. Back in ancient times, four paladins established a 'cloister' to become a training centre and sanctuary for paladins, but in time their successors fell out with each other and eventually came to blows - an event known as the Saints' War which ended, as such things do, in tears. But that was long ago, and few details are remembered today... or were, until the undead remnants of the losing side come calling...

It all begins for the party at a trading post called Ambroshea Trades. Several ideas are provided to get them there, if not already interested in recent events at the paladin's establishment, which is called Ordocar. However, if you want to play out events that get them involved, that's up to you (although there's a brief appendix describing the settlement): the adventure itself begins as they approach the valley where Ordocar is located. Even from here it's obvious something is amiss, and as they approach they see that most of the compound has fallen under attack, and needless to say some of the attackers are still around!

Everything is described clearly. It must have been quite a nice place (if a bit chilly) before it was assaulted. Throughout, the place is stated to be dedicated to a 'God of Valour' leaving you free to substitute the name of a suitable deity from your campaign world, but if you do not have one in mind a sample god is described in a sidebar. Just about everywhere the party goes, however, there are stray undead wandering around, as well as overt signs of the battle that raged here only recently... unless, of course, the party manages to walk into the middle of where the fight continues, a last stand being made by the Orodcar paladins against their undead adversaries. Here you will have to get your head around mass battle tactics, best to have a plan for what the participants will be doing when the party arrives.

Reaching the climax of the adventure, however, relies on the party managing to establish a conversation with the leader of the surviving paladins who, once he has decided to trust them, explains his fears and enlists their help. Or of course they can blunder in on it by themselves... if they want to explore the catacombs of the order, that is. Here the undead are practising vile rites and desecrating the remains of paladins long gone. The rewards, at least the feel-good factor, of defeating these ancient evils and enabling the surviving paladins to begin restoring their home, are great. Success is assumed. Failure would likely result in the deaths of the entire party, anyway.

There are good points and bad points about this adventure. If you like undead, especially the level-draining sort, coupled with a good solid backstory and a well-detailed location, this should prove enjoyable. Loot is low, and most items of value really belong to the surviving paladins anyway. It isn't very clear how the party ever gets to hear the full detail of the backstory, good though it is, unless they are victorious and someone then explains it to them. If you're after a good brawl against hordes of undead with no question that they are the bad guys and the party the good guys, this is one to enjoy.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #12: The Blackguard's Revenge
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2018 08:39:10

This is an adventure for a low-level party, who are asked to assist in investigating a recent spate of robberies in a wilderness town (called Welwyn, but you may easily substitute a suitable settlement in your own campaign world if you prefer). According to the locals, the robberies centre around a well, so down you go...

The DM gets a selection of resources including an overview of what's actually going on, a list of wandering monsters and where they are to be found, and notes on scaling the adventure for stronger or weaker parties than the one envisioned. There are a few hooks to help you get the party interested, and comments on how the Speak with Animals spell might be used to good effect. There are fuller background notes as well, including further ramifications and underlying plots goind on...

The adventure itself begins with the party about to descend the well - if you want to play out anything beforehand like the party being recruited or learning that locals believe the robbers escaped down the well, you'll have to run that for yourself. From then it develops into a detailed and excellent delve - and a nice change from being sent into the sewers! There's loads of information for each location and encounter and a lot of personalisation of the beings encountered - they may, in true Dungeon Crawl Classics style, be there to be killed, but names, mannerisms, backgrounds and a whole lot more are provided for them. They have reasons to be down there and doing what they are doing over and above being there to provide the party with a good fight!

Part of the delve works best for Small or preferably Tiny individuals, fortunately if the party looks in the right place they'll find potions to help. This can prove an extremely entertaining part of the adventure as people adapt to being much smaller than usual. A neat twist that is exploited well.

The adventure ends in classic style with a brawl with the Bad Guy behind it all and a chance to figure out what he was up to... and should end with the town being safe once more. A good feeling of satisfaction, nice for a low-level party. Overall it's a nice adventure to run and, if you can find it, there's a web enhancement covering the settlement which is useful if you want to start the adventure before the well itself, or have the town as a permanent feature in your game world.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #11: The Dragonfiend Pact
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #10: The Sunless Garden
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2018 07:11:45

This adventure occurs when the party, for whatever reason, arrive in an apparently abandoned trading post called Garland's Fork. It soon becomes apparent that it's been 'abandoned' because all the residents have been turned into black trees... and a quest to find out why, and can they be turned back, ensues. As one might guess from the title, much of this investigation will be conducted underground.

The underlying reason is quite straightforward, and the GM is also provided with wandering monster tables and a selection of ideas for how to persuade the party that they want to go to Garland's Fork in the first place (or at least, pass through it when wanting to go someplace else!).

Although most of the adventure is a classic delve, there is some poking around to do on the surface in and around Garland's Fork - and even a friendly dog! (However, despite being named Violet, the poor mutt is referred to as 'he' for the rest of the adventure!) Everything is described clearly, and there is plenty going on that doesn't depend on the party having turned up, always a good touch.

Once they do proceed underground, things start getting strange, warped even. The Sunless Garden itself is a huge cavern... and just wait until you meet the gardener! But of course there's a lot more going on than that, plenty of scope for exploration, combat and looting in a multi-level underground complex - part natural, part constructed - with several conflicting sets of residents, none of whom are particulary fond of wandering adventurers. Everything, everyone, however, is there for a purpose; even wandering monsters have good reason to be wandering where they are, er, wandering.

The whole thing hangs together well, with a slightly demented air which makes sense once you reach the creature behind it all. The entire underground area seems to go on and on, every time you think you're done, there's another bit. There's a fair bit of treasure to loot - if you can a) get it out and b) sell it without being arrested! - and some neat ideas for follow-up adventures. An excellent delve with a nature-based twist that should keep the whole group entertained for a few sessions.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #10: The Sunless Garden
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Conan the Thief
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2018 09:01:07

Conan himself was a thief: it's how he started out and he used the skills thus learned pretty much throughout his life. It's not surprising, then, that there's plenty of opportunities for light-fingered characters in this game. This book provides plenty of information and options for the ethically-challenged... and for the Game Masters who will shepherd them through their adventures.

Firstly, Chapter 1: Thief Characters expands on the information in the core rules, with additional material to help you create, improve and equip thief characters. The character creation process is run through with notes at each stage as to either the most appropriate choices you can make from the core rules or giving new options - so there is a new Caste - the Outlaw - with associated detail, new Archetypes and much more. Perhaps you'd like to be an assassin or a relic-hunter or a spy... the skills of a thief can be turned to all of these and more. And those skills are many and varied, as the Education section proves when it looks at the training that can be acquired by apprenticing to various types of thief (or just hanging around, seeing as a formal apprenticeship doesn't quite go with the territory). When it comes to War Stories, thieves may substitute tall tales of memorable heists instead. There are new talents, equipment and the tricks of using them and more to bring a thief character to life.

Next, Chapter 2: Gazetteer explores the highways, byways, and underbellies of the kingdoms of Zamora, Nemedia, Corinthia, and Brythunia: places where thievery thrives, indeed becomes almost an artform. History and background, maps, descriptions... all manner of information to provide a backdrop to your exploits. There are notable places to explore, gate guards to negotiate (or sneak) your way past, rumours to hear, and much more. Everything is detailed with an eye to its usefulness or interest to a thief, and it all makes interesting reading, and will probably spawn an adventure idea or two in the mind of a suitably-devious GM.

Whilst a well-informed thief might know at least his own hometown in the sort of detail described in the previous chapter, the rest of the book wanders into GM territory, with chapters on Events, Myth and Magic, and Encounters; which are all designed to provide 'building blocks' and background to help you create meaningful episodes in your party's lives. Events may be for individual thieves, or they may be city-wide or even kingdom-wide events in which the whole party is swept up. You can read about appropriate deities for thieves, and the legends and myths commonly told in thievish circles. The Ecounters chapter contains a vast array of people and monsters that can be met, fought, befriended or indeed robbed...

And there's more. Hither Came Conan recounts exploits from Conan's experience as a thief, and even provides a character sheet for the young Conan. Then Chapter 7: The Way of Thieves is replete with material to aid you in running a campaign based around thievery. Ideas galore including thieves' guilds and the fine art of thievery; and then there's a whole chapter on setting up and running heists... which as any film-watcher knows, make for the most entertaining of light-fingered exploits. Finally, there are three fully-developed legendary thieves, the people your PC thieves want to emulate. Weave them in as something aspirational.

This work really captures the essence of the early Conan books, when Conan was living by his wits and thieving his way across the land. It also makes for interesting and unusual role-play, plenty of excitement but relying on skill and knowledge and planning rather than brute force, yet there are opportunities for combat - especially when that heist goes wrong. Definitely worth adding to your bookshelf or hard drive.



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Conan the Thief
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Conan Player's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 08:47:41

This book is intended for those members of your group who want to play rather than GM, the idea being that if they're not going to GM they do not need the additional information provided for GMs. After all, where's the point in buying a book where you only need a part of it. As the information here is reproduced from the core rulebook, if you have that you don't need this as well.

It starts off by explaining what a role-playing game is, then gets straight on with character generation, detailing the steps necessary for creating your character. This involves a 10-step process that builds a description of your character in terms of his attributes, skills, talents, and equipment. These steps can be followed by rolling on a series of tables or by making deliberate choices as you go along depending on preference. Some players may have a clear image of the character that they want to play, and the dice should not be allowed to get in their way!

The whole thing begins by determining where the character comes from - his homeland. Next comes a quite complex system for allocating numbers to the seven attributes of Agility, Awareness, Brawn, Coordination, Intelligence, Personality, and Willpower. Next comes social class or Caste of origin, followed by Story - little snippets associated with your Caste that provide a spark to start in on developing your backstory. A choice of Archetype then gives skills, talents and equipment to the growing character. A lot of choice is involved at every stage, making this a quite involved process but one which produces rich and rounded characters.

But we're not done yet! Determine your character's Nature, Education and War Story. Just about everyone has seen at least a bit of war, and will have seen or done something that affected them, which - like everything else - contributes to skills and talents as well as to the character's backstory. We round off with Finishing Touches and some Final Calculations... and at some point you'd better decide on a name, age, appearance, etc. If this seems all too much and you're itching to play already, there is a fast random method; and those who want a particular slant have some alternate methods - this may be mandated by the GM, depending on the game that's being planned.

Following chapters go into much more detail about Skills and Talents, with plenty of examples, as well as Equipment. Here you'll find out how to use what you've got. Finally there's a Rules chapter with many detailed explanations of how the rules actually work and how to use them to best effect during play and a further chapter on Action Scenes which focusses on the rules for combat.

If you're certain you never want to GM this game, go ahead and get this book. It contains all that you'll ever need to create and play characters to good effect, with loads of detailed explanations and examples, and some beautiful illustrations.



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Conan Player's Guide
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #9: Dungeon Geomorphs
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2018 12:57:36

This is a departure from the rest of the Dungeon Crawl Classics line in that there's no plot, no adventure. Very simply, it's jam-packed with old school style floorplans for all manner of places, ready for you to build your own encounters and whole adventures around.

If you have an idea floating around, but lack the time (or the talent) to draw out where that idea takes place, leaf through these pages and pick out a location. Rather neatly, there are 120 modular map segments that can be combined in all manner of ways (hence 'geomorphs'). These segments include mazes, dungeons, underdeep caverns, monstrous lairs, castles, ruins, halls, and many other intriguing places to explore.

Each page has four segments, and each segment has eight entrances/exits which match up with any other segment - even if you turn them around. There's no set 'up' and 'down', you decide. They are all provided with a square grid, but it's up to you what the scale is, although 1 square = 5 or 10 feet is recommended... unless you want a really massive cavern or chamber, that is. There are some blank gridded segments as well in case you get creative and want to add your own designs.

If you don't like anything, change it - a black 'magic marker' is the best tool. Print or photocopy a segment that's fairly close to what you want, scribble on it and photocopy again. Or import into a graphics program if you prefer. Similar techniques can be used to produce handouts of treasure maps, stolen plans of lairs or whatever which may not be a completely faithful reproduction of the real version in your game file!

A useful tool when you are partway between wanting to use a prepared adventure or develop your own. Caves, castles, hallways, lairs, places with deep chasms or rivers running through them... just about anywhere you might choose to delve.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #9: Dungeon Geomorphs
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #8: Mysteries of the Drow
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2018 09:35:39

Originally written as a convention tournament adventure and intended to be played using Drow characters (pre-generated ones are provided) over three rounds, this scenario may be played with any characters with little or no adjustment as part of your campaign. It makes use of material from two other Goodman Games publications, the Aerial Adventure Guide and the Complete Guide to Drow, but although these may enhance your game you don't need to possess them to run it.

The introductory material for the DM explains what is going on. As usual, there's factional bickering going on amongst the Drow. For Drow parties, they are summoned by their head of house to aid the cause by retrieving an unknown but powerful weapon another house has found. Other suggestions for getting the party involved are given if you are not using the pre-generated characters - perhaps they are mercenaries hired to do the job, or they have been captured by the Drow and are given the task as the price of their freedom. There's scaling notes should your party be stronger or weaker than the at least 35 character-levels recommended, a list of wandering monsters to roll on, and lots of detailed background to add richness to the setting. It's not just one Drow house against another, you see: there's internal bickering within the houses, and other non-Drow factors at work too.

The mission itself breaks neatly into three parts, with three elements of the puzzle to be acquired. In convention play, that equates to the three rounds of the competition, but if running this as part of an ongoing campaign it can be a bit more freeform, with the party exploring all the locations and following up on clues in whatever manner they please. There's plenty of advice on how to keep the party moving in the right direction - if nothing else, they'll have a Drow matriarch on their backs, demanding, demanding... Prior preparation is vital, especially as some locations work far better if you have certain props and handouts ready for when the party gets there. There's one puzzle which works best if you can present the players with an actual representation of what they find - don't be alarmed, it's simple to put together, and clear directions are given.

The adventure begins with the Drow matriarch delivering her instructions to the party. Then they are sent forth to explore... A massive delve follows, with ample opportunities to interact and to fight with a range of monsters and sentient denizens of the deep. To do well, the party will need to gather information as well as fight their way through the opposition and puzzle stuff out. There's a huge amount to see and do packed into this adventure, with some mind-boggling ideas and magics to get your head around.

It's a real microcosm, a slice of the underground world of the Drow, and ought to keep you and your group entertained for hours. Everything is clearly laid out - even a series of door-opening puzzles which should challenge even the most puzzle-happy parties to the limit, yet the necessary clues are there for them to find. Each item, creature, NPC is where it is for good reason - even the wandering monsters have good reason to be wandering where they might be encountered - and the lid is lifted on what it's like to be a Drow in a world of Drow. Of course, once the objectives of this adventure have been met, the further ramifications are only just beginning, but that's another adventure that you will have fun creating... Definitely recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #8: Mysteries of the Drow
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2018 08:31:57

This adventure all begins when a party of adventurers arrive in a small seaside village and undertake to investigate a haunted lighthouse... and find far, far more than they bargained for! This one just keeps on giving, with dungeons to delve, monsters and smugglers to defeat, and nefarious plots to thwart. Oh, and part of the action takes place underwater. What more could you want?

There's an overview of the whole thing, lists of wandering monsters, and notes on how to scale the adventure if you have a stronger or weaker party than the 4-6 5th to 7th level group for which the adventure is written. There are also several hooks, one or more of which can be used to get the party heading for that lighthouse if the mere thought of a haunted building isn't enough to get them going. Then we settle down to some detailed background about the area and the lighthouse itself, which make fascinating reading and show why things are in the state they're in when the party arrives. This all helps to set the scene nicely.

The adventure proper begins with the party arriving along a clifftop track to the foot of the lighthouse. Once they venture in, everything they'll find is described clearly, with notes on how to run each encounter to best effect. There are various ingenious traps to circumvent and a rather confused ghost lurking on the stairs. That, of course, is just the beginning. There's a ruined manor house, assorted cellars, and some sea caves to explore yet, and as mentioned before a plot to unravel and thwart before the party can go home for tea, or even a well-earned pint.

What's so good about this adventure is that everything has a purpose. NPCs and monsters are found where they are because they have a good reason to be there that doesn't involve providing opposition for a good fight - although many of them will be happy to oblige when the party shows up. Another good thing is the sheer amount of things that are going on, it doesn't all revolve around the main plot... and the party can explore the various areas petty much as they please, there's no one route through. The whole adventure shows clear evidence of having been thought through carefully and honed to make it a realistic setting. Definitely one to enjoy, whichever side of the DM screen you are sitting!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #6: Temple of the Dragon Cult
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2018 08:17:57

Now that's a straightforward task: just go kill a dragon that has not only been mortally wounded but they've even tracked down its lair for you... or is it? Apart from the usual unease the thought of a cornered wounded predator ought to arouse, there are of course other issues for the party to deal with!

Putting both the 'dungeon' and the 'dragon' into Dungeons and Dragons, this is a delve with a difference... just about everyone around reveres the dragon in question! The background material for the DM lays this out, and provides useful material like scaling advice should your party be stronger or weaker than the recommended 40 character levels, bearing in mind that it's supposed to be challenging in places, and sometimes the best option will be to retreat and regroup. Remember, you don't have to outrun the dragon, merely outrun the slowest party member! This is intended to be combat-heavy, but many of the opponents are well-developed NPCs rather than hordes of cookie-cutter monsters, which makes it all a bit more interesting... but also necessary to study them before the game so as to run them to best effect. Likewise, review the maps as it's easy for parties to get lost, especially if they are not meticulous mappers.

There's sufficient backstory to explain what's going on, then the action proper starts with the party standing outside the injured dragon's lair ready to go in. There are four levels to the complex and all have inhabitants with good reason to be there... and none of whom are welcoming to visitors. Loads of notes are provided to help make the action more vivid and entertaining - several encounters even have a whole section called 'Cool ways to make this fight interesting' associated with them!

The whole thing is replete with little side-notes that make each and every encounter unique and distinctive. Oh, and there are traps to avoid as well as monsters to fight. Stat blocks and descriptions are placed just where you'll need them and there are a few illustrations you can show the players and handouts that you can give them. And of course, finally there's a big cavern with a massive heap of shiny treasure and a dragon on top. Classic stuff, an adventure that is as fun to run as it is to play, and one thoroughly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #6: Temple of the Dragon Cult
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #5: Aerie of the Crow God
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2018 07:57:44

The party arrive in a coastal town to discover that the local lordling has got himself killed trying to deal with an infestation of harpies. His distraught widow is glad to hear that there are adventurers in town, because he rather unwisely took the key to his strongbox with him, and she urgently needs to get into it. The task seems straightforward, but of course there's a bit more to it than that.

Pleny of notes are provided covering everything from scaling the adventure up or down, to wandering monsters and even why the grieving widow is so keen to have the key back. There's plenty of background material too, about the ruined cliff-top fortress where the harpies are based... and about what else is there that will present a greater challenge. There are also some adventure hooks to get the party to the right place if needed. The history is quite extensive, and it's left up to you how much you want the locals to know - and so relate to the party before they set off.

The adventure itself opens with the party in a row-boat heading towards the bottom of the cliff - the best if not only way to access the ruined tower. You'll need to come up with preliminary material covering their arrival in town and being hired for this task. There's a sea cave at the base of the cliff and steps leading up, but everything's fairly slick with spray. There are no wandering monsters here, but the place is not devoid of resident ones...

Up into the tower, and there is plenty to explore, monsters to fight and treasure to loot. As written, there's quite a lot of loot so if you are not inclined to be quite so generous there are notes on how to cut down without affecting the flavour of the haul. Some opportunities for interaction are provided for those who don't want to brawl with everyone they meet, but they will need to choose their moments wisely.

There's really a lot packed in here, a lot of exploration will be needed to figure out what is going on and how to deal with it. Several ideas for further adventures are presented, and there are notes on the surrounding area should the party decide to stay awhile. Altogether a well-construted adventure with plenty going on.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #5: Aerie of the Crow God
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2018 08:38:29

This adventure requires a party that can think creatively and shows ingenuity, and warns that those who hack and slash their way through everything may come a cropper here! It all begins with stange beguilements in the shape of cryptic messages and dreams, that lead the party to a shallow cave in an out-of-the-way valley. What follows is no ordinary delve.

The background to the adventure explains what is going on in detail, explaining for the Judge how it all works and how to run the mechanics... suffice to say, there are three powerful wizards in a pocket dimension locked in combat (not of their own volition) and they've reached out to the party to get some outside help! Their combat is not of the brawling kind, it involves ever-shifting alliegiances and warped events, which are confusing to read, never mind run... and runs the risk of baffling the party too. There's still plenty that can harm them, however. The whole thing revolves around a mysterious deck of cards (facsimilies are provided), oh, and the pocket dimension is slowly shrinking.

Addressing the inevitable confusion, there's a whole section devoted to 'Running the Adventure' that provides some hints about how to dispel that confusion and get the characters engaged in productive action... yet it's still not very clear just what they need to do to brings events to a satisfactory conclusion, or even merely escape with their lives.

Whilst there is potential for a truly warped adventure utilising this concept, it is so weird and bizarre that players - and even Judges with the text in front of them - are likely to find it confusing and unsatisfactory, left not knowing what they can do to affect the situation and find their way back home. For genuinely crazy NPCs and odd situations this is excellent, but it needs some direction - at least for the Judge in how to make it all work coherently at the table.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #78: Fate's Fell Hand
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