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Adventures in Middle-earth: The Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster's Screen
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/03/2019 07:14:02

I ran a very enjoyable session of Eaves of Mirkwood. I highly recommend this as an introductory adventure for those new to AiME and/or to roleplaying games.

The session took a little longer than expected, about four hours, with a couple of small breaks, but mainly because of some great roleplaying during the scene with the dwarves and some choices PCs needed to make for their characters.

I used the pre-gen PCs from the main rulebook, except the elf PC. I needed to make some adjustments/additions to the adventure based on the features of these PCs:

  1. Trotter chose his four Known Lands at the beginning and this included the lands being travelled through, so I adjusted the peril rating to 0 (DC 12 for checks).
  2. I ran a dream sequence of the suckling pig being stalked for Beli in his ale-fuelled sleep after the party in line with his dream ability.
  3. The Bride chose Perception as the trained skill for her Hound, so gained advantage on Perception checks, which came in handy later in the adventure.
  4. Beran chose Orcs for his Enemy-lore, which unfortunately did not come into play. I did have a 'moment' where I couldn't find the options for creature choices for this ability and wished I'd checked this rule beforehand.

The Highlights:

The scene with the dwarves proved to be one of the best roleplaying scenes I have been involved in over thirty years of RPGing. This was mainly down to the players' involvement and skill but I did do a couple of things to help it along in addition to some interesting accents for each of the dwarves and keeping in character for each of them:

  1. Printed out the points awards for the smoke ring game, handed it out, and got them to choose each round which one they were going to attempt. Trotter rolled two nat 20s on his first round but then failed on the final round by 1 on his chosen smoke ring. Har (who I gave pipes proficiency to) beat him by 2 points with some steady choices and won the rune-designed pipe reward.
  2. I printed out the riddles, gave 2 to each player and we went in rounds, with people just trying to guess them but I only allowed three guesses. On the third guess, they could make a DC 10 Riddle check for a clue. All were guessed within the three, and only one Riddle check was required.
  3. I chatted with the characters about their hopes and goals over ale and roasted pig.
  4. I played the lovely Song of Durin by Clamavi de Profundis via youtube instead of trying out my relatively poor singing skills.

The journeying went pretty well - I remembered to do the Embarkation, Event and Arrival checks, and interspersed the travelling with opportunities for hunting deer, collecting berries, and admiring landscapes using the descriptions provided. If anything, I'd have liked more of these descriptions, and if running again, would design some more interesting location descriptions to drop in. Whilst originally not a fan of the journey rules, Jon Hodgson's lengthy post in the old C77 forums was very helpful and I enjoyed the process better second time running it. The only issue I had was other PCs wanting to make checks after the allocated role PC had already made their check - I had to control this pretty quickly. I printed out some of the pictures and showed them to the players as they saw them in play, which I hoped help to bring the feeling of ME to the game.

The Lowlights:

There are no prices for the goods on sale in the market in Woodmen-town. I had to make up the cost of the talisman and an axe-head, and add a different trader selling axe hafts so a full weapon could be created. Having done this on the fly was a bit concerning but it all worked out OK in the end. Still, I'd like to have seen a little table with some prices on what was being sold included. Eager to get on with the adventure, I feel I rushed Woodmen-town a bit, and should have enjoyed other roleplaying possibilities there if I'd been a bit more relaxed.

I went a bit too easy on the first combat, following my concerns on tactical possibilities. I ran two rounds of attacks and the creatures gained surprise in the first round. In the second round they attacked hand-to-hand and were pretty decimated by the PCs, so the creatures then fled - realistic, but a little anti-climactic.

The Audience went pretty well, except when the skill check at the end needed to be made I couldn't find if there was a particular skill that was required and the text didn't seem to obviously mention it. I plumped for Persuasion in the end, which was fine. The PCs laid out their defence well, and were very convincing.

The second combat also went a bit too easily, despite using the prone/advantage and pack tactics abilities. I brought Lifstan to needing to make death saving throws (stabilised by The Bride), and two PCs were frightened for 1 round, but The Bride (great axe), Lifstan and Beli (sneak attack) did huge damage within a couple of rounds and it was all over by round 4. I definitely feel that I should have increased the number of minions by at least another four (from the one I included from the get-go), which I did afterwards but again a bit anti-climactic at that point.

I hope the above is useful feedback for another LM running Eaves in the future.

All in all, an excellent adventure, which I will run again for other groups, and learn from my mistakes and my successes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Middle-earth: The Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster's Screen
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Rising Sands
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/19/2018 08:36:17

I just finished running this adventure for my group and we had a (sand) blast!

A great mixture of puzzle, combat and roleplaying opportunities in a tight package.

The highlight was a cool room with three spirits that the players have to decide who to side with, after the spirits have given their back stories. Tied my players in moral knots and encouraged some roleplaying too, which can be a bit of a rarity with this particular group of players - kudos for that alone!

The combats were well balanced, challenging the players just enough - all players were in single digit hp by the end of the climactic encounter - whilst introducing some interesting lair and legendary actions to increase the options available to the main villain.

The adventure is thematic and resonant from an Egyptian tomb adventure perspective, taking inspiration from well-known media whilst bringing its own style and ideas to the party.

If I had any suggestions for improvement, it would be to expand the personality of the dragon at the beginning of the adventure, and outline possible answers to PC questions and demands, especially for newbie DMs who might need some advice in this area. But that's a nitpick in what is an excellent piece of work.

Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rising Sands
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The Wisdom of Sylvasum
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2018 07:58:06

A nice little starter adventure with plenty of flavour.

Taking inspiration from the Nausicaa anime movie and 1001 Nights, it blends a potentially deadly foetid swamp with snippets of wise stories linking to the history of the location. Well detailed NPCs are introduced at the beginning providing good oportunities for roleplaying, a sandbox swamp location requires exploration, and a couple of interesting villains with very different goals cap off a plethora of creepy verminous combat encounters in the swamp.

A few minor typos/grammar issues could be easily cleaned up and it would be helpful to have some more information on the markers with the stories, perhaps (as an additional story hook) a sage from the city hires the PCs to recover these nuggets of ancient wisdom.

The art is sparse but good, the maps and layout clean and plain.

Well worth picking up for the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wisdom of Sylvasum
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Critical Misses Tables 5e DnD
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2018 05:00:58

This product gives a number of flavourful (and sometimes amusing!) options for when a player rolls a natural 1 on an attack, the infamous 'critical miss' from older editions of the game. They are split up by attack type (melee, ranged, thrown, spell) and give around 10 options for each type. In addition, there is a small sidebar giving advice on how to deal with players complaining about 'too many fumbles' if they have multiple attacks per round.

There are a few minor grammatical errors that could have been caught with a final editing run and I would have liked to have seen a brief overview of the concept of critical misses in game design and how the product tries to address the challenges. By their very nature, critical misses can end up prolonging the mechanics of combat through additional rolls and minimising these elements should be a design goal in my opinion.

For anyone wanting a streamlined critical miss solution, picking this up is a no-brainer and definitely worth throwing some virtual loose change the way of the author to keep him producing more.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Critical Misses Tables 5e DnD
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The White Scorpions Assassins Guild
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2018 04:46:22

The White Scorpions Assassins Guild details a good-oriented vigilante assassins organisation.

This product works well on three levels:

  1. It provides an interesting organisation, a PC Background and related roleplaying hooks for PCs playing a rogue with the assassin archetype.
  2. It provides engaging NPCs, detailed organisational background and related mechanics if a DM simply wanted to introduce this organisation into their campaign setting unrelated to using it for a PC.
  3. It provides adventure hooks and useful advice for attempting to integrate a PC assassin with the rest of a standard adventuring party; always a challenge, as highlighted by the author in the advice.

Despite being ostensibly based in the Forgotten Realms the organisation could easily be used in most standard fantasy campaign settings with minor tweaks. It is engagingly written, though could have used a final editing run as there are a number of minor grammatical errors that were missed. Bookmarks, though not essential for a product of this size, would have been a 'nice to have'. A further supplement detailing the HQ of the guild or a mini-adventure for a solo one-shot assassination for a PC assassin might be an interesting follow-up.

Overall, an excellent product that sparked ideas for me for my own campaign setting and provided useful material for integrating assassins into the standard D&D adventuring tropes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The White Scorpions Assassins Guild
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Urban Steampunk (Über RPG: Steampunk sourcebook)
Publisher: Uber Goober Games
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/10/2013 05:51:02

Urban Steampunk is a 95-page sourcebook for Uber Goober's Uber RPG.

The sourcebook provides a fairly detailed (though not complete) example of a steampunk city (Ankmir), providing maps of the city, 18 city locations with some location maps, 40 NPCs with some related art, and 82 plot hooks related to these locations and NPCs.

One criticism I would level at the preview is that it only shows the maps with no list of contents, making it difficult to get a feel of what the product covers. To rectify this, here is the list of contents from the book:

Introduction

Skills and Attributes Currency City Statistics Demographic List Government Law Enforcement Sanitation New Secret Societies

Olde Ankmir D.D.A. Gentle Rascal Exclusive Hall of Hawks Winnifred's House of Windows

Central Ankmir Fetter Lane Militia Institute Omnibus Lines and Stations Botanical Gardens The Duchess' Circus Bottoms Up Brothel and Fine Libations

The Right Arm Little Maze Under Market The Tinkers' Market Eldritch Mining Export Center Asylum of the Lost

The Left Arm Innovations University Exotic Alehouse of Spiders Herb's Herbs The Crooked Tower Dr. Zachariah Wilshire III's House of Healing

The Aether Side of Ankmir Story Seed Links

A second criticism, this time of the pdf itself, is that it fails to contain bookmarks, something that any sourcebook like this should have as standard in my opinion. In addition, security is enabled on the pdf to disallow creation of bookmarks.

The actual content of the book seems creative and cohesive, although I don't own the Uber RPG so cannot comment on its compatibility in this regard. The art is decent, anime-style depictions of characters with a consistent style, though I would have liked to see the front page art in the main download rather than as a separate file. The maps are functional representations of locations. The story seeds are pretty strongly related in most cases to the content.

On the whole the sourcebook achieves what is sets out to do, although I felt the potential for use in other steampunk settings was more limited than I had hoped for and would require more work than I had expected.

I would have rated the product as Good, bar the issue with bookmarks and my own personal opinion that I would have liked the story seeds to have been more generic and easier to translate into other settings, as this was the main reason I picked the book up.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Steampunk (Über RPG: Steampunk sourcebook)
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Swords of Our Fathers
Publisher: The Game Mechanics
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2004 00:00:00

An original and innovative way to enable the introduction of artifacts into a low-level game and allow the character to develop the powers of their magical swords as they themselves grow in power. Gives plenty of examples of how to do this, which in turn gives ideas for developing one's own artifacts. Does rely on the DM using 'deus ex machina' to allow the character to keep his weapon no matter what, which is the vulnerability of the system as presented.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Swords of Our Fathers
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OGL-Fantasy Lite: Basic Player's Guide
Publisher: S.T. Cooley Publishing
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2004 00:00:00

A decent option for experienced DMs to introduce new players to D&D - but for new mature players, not kids. To have been really effective, it would have had to provide the entire game (for players and DMs) in a rules-lite version, and/or have been more geared for kids to read.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
OGL-Fantasy Lite: Basic Player's Guide
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A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/20/2004 00:00:00

A fabulous guide to world creation through the eyes of a newbie god. Full of wit and intelligence, and crammed to the brim with good advice. Integrates facts from the real world with supposition on cultures and ecology in a magical world to provide a seamless commentary on setting development.

Highly recommended to all GMs creating their own fantasy world.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture
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Dice and Dramatics
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Simon C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/20/2004 00:00:00

This is a useful product for a GM to hand to relative newbies or to players a GM wants to encourage to roleplay more, even at a basic level. It has some pointers for a relatively new GM, and is worth picking up on this basis.

However, there is little here for the veteran roleplayer to improve his or her roleplaying - for instance, much of the advice on roleplaying the different races revolves around physical descriptions and cultural cliches. Though some of the pointers for acting out racial stereotypes can be a jumping point for twists to the theme, or useful for portraying stock NPCs for GMs.

Note to pedants: The editing leaves a lot to be desired.

It's a breath of fresh air to see a product focusing on roleplaying rather than feats, prestige classes, and monsters so bravo to Ben Mowbray! I'd like to see a similar product for more experienced roleplayers with some better editing.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dice and Dramatics
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Creator Reply:
A revised edition, which will be free to previous purchasers on RPGNow! will be available sometime in the next few months. While it will mainly contain most of the original content, it will have an extra section on character progression, and be more professionally edited (the main reason for the update. The work was my first ever, and I admit it was poorly edited. It is something I wanted to address, along with other suggestions that customers made about the book's content). Hopefully it will also be available in POD.
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