Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit

One of the greatest books ever produced for any game is the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.  One of the most disappointing books ever made was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The logic for this was good.  All the information that all players need should be in the Player's Handbook.  The rest goes into the DMG.  The result should be a larger Player's Book than a Game Master's book. That is what we got for 2nd ed.  Somehow it didn't quite work as well.

Adventures Dark & Deep follows the same logic but gain a different result.
The Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is the book that BRW and Joseph Bloch didn't have to do a Kickstarter for.   The statement that Joe put out at the time was Kickstarters are for projects he needed to finish the funding for.  The Game Masters Toolkit did not need it.

The GMTK is smaller than the Player's Book at 174 pages.  Not as small as the 2nd ed DMG, but the comparison is there.  The GMTK also includes some information from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore but it also has a lot more.

The GMTK also follows an example from 2nd ed and it largely mirrors the layout and placement of sections form the Players Book.  Something that the 1st ed DMG could have done better.
We start with a discussion on "alternate" races like the Dark Elf or Deep Gnome.
Various NPC types are discussed including class distribution and some non-classes like noble and hirelings.
There are tables to generate personalities and physical traits for random NPCs, as well as alignment and possessions.

We get into the Game Environment that is a hold over from A Curious Volume.
Swimming, Underwater travel and Flying are also discussed along with various terrains and hazards.  A little bit down we have a section on ships that is greatly expanded.  Again, could have used this when I was wrapping up my 1st Ed AD&D game.
The feel of these is similar to the classic DMG, but better organized.

Social Encounters come from A Curious Volume, but having them here in context with the other rules is much nicer.

Treasure types are discussed and magic item distribution.

The most interesting bits to me are coming up.   To me this shows the influence of the 3e DMG or just a natural progression.  Bloch covers not just the campaign world, the campaign mythos as well.  So whether you like playing in a Classical world, a Lost Golden Age, Underground or even in a Lovecraftian-inspired world is up to you. You are given the tools to build what you need, but not the worlds themselves (this is Feature, not a Bug!).

Religion and Gods are covered next.  Various reasons to have a god or a patron deity are covered and what sorts of powers they all have.  The list of powers and abilities is more 1st Ed than 2nd Ed.  I will also admit I don't know much off the top of my head about what Gygax said about gods and religions.  I know he said some things.  On a personal note I had conversations with  Mr. Gygax himself on the topic of religion and I know he was no great fan despite his own history.
Bloch though moves on and gives us a sample Pantheon to use in our game, the Norse gods.  Again from personal knowledge I know that Joseph Bloch is a fan of the Norse mythology and gods, so this is a good fit really.   Though I do wonder at the utility of listing the XP for permanently slaying Odin (1,022,000 XP btw).

The Planes of Existence is up next and it is cut from the Gygaxian cloth.  Wholly compatible to what we have seen in 1st and 2nd ed, there are some nice twists.  I like the art depicting the planes in relationship to each other.

Next we get into a section on Designing Adventures.  Covered are Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban.  The section is not long, but very useful.

Magic Items are next.  Personally I would have liked the charts for the Magic Items and the descriptions to all be in one place.  This takes up quite a bit of the book at 70 pages.

Appendix A is last and it collects and reprints all the useful tables.
Correction: Appendix A is a whole new set of random tables.  Sorry for the oversight on that!

With the GMTK you can really see the utility of Adventures Dark & Deep over a reference guide like OSRIC.  Not a slight at OSRIC at all, but this book has a slight edge in just by being a seperate Game Masters book.

To me the advantages of this book, all this information is one place, is better than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord + what is missing.

That being said, there are still some things I would have done differently. Most involve the placement of various section. Others I know are "locked" into the Gygazian visions or at least how Joseph Bloch interprets them. For me, I think I would have expanded the sections on adventuring in Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban settings more.  I would have expanded the section on how to create magic items and even changed somethings.  But that is me.

All in all this is a good addition to the game line.  I felt less of the Gygax connection here. Hard to say if that is me not knowing what he said on these subjects OR these are things that need to be here logically to make the rest of the game work.  In any case I am happy with what I got.

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