Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual is the first major release from BRW Games and the first major release of what is the Adventures Dark & Deep game. Again, a lot of what I have said about
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore is true here. Including how this was the result of a particularly successful Kickstarter that shipped early.
The book works under the premise of what would 2nd Edition have looked like if Gary Gygax had stayed at TSR. Joe has taken articles, interviews and discussions and something like an anthropologist pieced it all together to get something new and yet familiar. Unlike the previous book, the Player Manual makes no assumptions that you have AD&D1 or OSRIC. There are some obvious roots in those games, but this is now it's own thing.
Like most Player's books this one concentrates much of it's text on creating characters.
There is the obligatory sections on how to use the dice and then how to generate ability scores. In a difference from this game and it's spiritual cousin AD&D 2nd ed, we still have exceptional strength. Also all the ability score tables go to 25. Humans (and most PCs) still rank 3-18.
The same six ability scores are here. Interestingly enough, not Comeliness. I thought that would have made the cut.
Races are covered. Again the same ones we have seen before. But thats the point isn't it? This a AD&D2 as if Gary had created it. So there are a lot of elements in common here with AD&D 1 and 2 plus older versions. We do get a Dark Elf (not a Drow) and Half-Orc. It would take a critical eye to see the differences here between Adventures Dark & Deep and say OSRIC.
Classes include the new and the old.
From A Curious Volume we have: the Bard, Jester, Mystic, Savant, Thief-Acrobat, Mountebank
From the classic sources we have: the Paladin, Cleric, Druid (topping out at 15th level), Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Mage, Illusionist, Thief
And new to this volume we have: the Cavalier, Vates (Druids of 15th level and higher).
The Assassin is listed in the Appendix.
Classes are grouped into Class and Sub-class like AD&D1/2 but not like OSRIC. So all in all 17 (18) classes. Not bad really.
The Alignment system is the same as *D&D.
Secondary Skills is pretty much the same as what is found in A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Same with the Monthly Expenses which is now part of Social Class.
The next big section is Combat which includes the standard D&D style combat we all know and the additional material from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore. Morale is back in this edition, sort of like it was in Basic and AD&D2. There is a nice section on item saving throws. I have seen similar ones over the years, but this one seems fairly complete.
The next section is Magic.
It includes the making of magic items, learning spells and even an optional rule on sacrifice. The bulk though is devoted to spells.
The Spells are listed by class and level, but all the spells are alphabetical. There are 118 pages of spells, so roughly what you would expect from OSRIC and A Curious Volume. I see about 6-7 spells per page, so maybe close to 650 spells. There could also be more, but I did not check every single one. The spells are are written in a way that makes them compatible with pretty much every other OSR-style book out there.
Appendix A covers the Assassin class.
Appendix B covers weapons vs. various Armor types. A very Gygaxian holdover. As opposed to vs. AC, this is actually the type of armor. I like it and it makes sense. I am thinking of using this in my own old school game to be honest.
Appendix C covers combat tables.
The book does capture the feel of old D&D with some interesting twists. None that would trip you up, but still enough to make you go "huh, that is kind of neat".
The art is nice and still invokes that Old-School feel without looking dated.
The PDF is copy/paste restricted, but not print restricted. Which is good because I want to print that Appendix B. The physical book is nice and sturdy and at 257 pages it is a decent sized book. It compares well to the AD&D 2nd Ed Player's Handbook to be honest.
It is a nice book.
So who should get this book?
Well if you like the OSR or enjoy AD&D then this is a good choice. It is a better "game" than OSRIC is. I say "game" because OSRIC isn't a game as much as a reference to a game you already know how to play.
If you have A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore and OSRIC then yes you could re-create this book on your own. But part of the utility of this book is that all of that information is in one volume.
It is worth it for the new classes and spells too.
I like it because it is a well researched "What If" experiment, much like Spellcraft & Swordplay (what if D&D continued using the default combat roll) and B/X Companion (what if the Companion rules had come out for B/X and not BECMI). We will never know what Gygax's 2nd Ed would have been like. In a way, really we don't need to know. 2e was fine and Adventures Dark & Deep is here now.
It is perfectly playable and fun.