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Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2020 18:19:58

Old School Essentials is the best way to play original B/X D&D. The TSR Basic and Expert rules are hard to come by and not organized well at all. This solves that perfectly. It's cleanly laid out and done right. So if you want to play a very streamlined and simple version of Dungeons & Dragons this is it. It does not, however, try and fix the design issues with the original version so you'll see a lot of relics of 1970s/1980s unrefined game design in some places (e.g. the thief saving throw vs wands is 13 for levels 5-8, then changes to 11 for levels 9-12, the real questions here are "why did it stay the same for 4 levels then jump 2 spots" and "why have a save vs. wands in the first place" and "why are all wands the same so far as saves are concerned"?). Simply put, you get an excellent presentation of some very old and simple D&D rules (which are still tons of fun to play).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
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Stars Without Number: Revised Edition (Free Version)
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2020 18:12:46

What can I say? This is amazing. Absolutely incredible. High production values, very cleanly organized, thought through by a clearly very experienced game designer. If you want to play in a sci-fi setting using the D20 system this is it right here. Stuck for story ideas? Excellent tables and tools throughout. Want to own and upgrade a spaceship and would like a decent spaceship combat that isn't too involved but provides an easy skeleton to dump a bunch of homebrew rules onto if you want? You've got that too. This is one of the better RPG books I've ever seen.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition (Free Version)
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The Tomb of Black Sand
Publisher: Swordfish Islands
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2020 18:06:56

Depending on what you're looking for in an adventure module this could easily range from 5 stars to 3 stars. Let's break it down:

The Good
  • Incredibly interesting setting
  • Great backstory
  • Gorgeous presentation, art, maps, etc
  • Easily a piece that could be "plugged in" to another campaign or setting
The Bad
  • Very difficult to figure out how to run this as a module
  • Not much clear direction for what the players should do or how they should interact with the world
  • If running the suggested play "all the characters start out stuck in the dungeon" there really aren't very good clues for them to figure out what's going on or how to deal with it. In other words there is a ton of backstory but virtually no clear idea for how to get that backstory to the players.
Overall

Overall this is very well-created, exceptionally crafted, quality work. If you want something that works as a good and interesting setting and not a stand-alone adventure module this is great. If you're looking for clever ideas, interetsing new monsters, or just an interesting read then definitely pick this up. If you're looking for a stand-alone adventure module to run the players through be prepared for a lot of work. I for one am very glad I picked this up.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Tomb of Black Sand
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The Gardens Of Ynn
Publisher: Dying Stylishly Games
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2020 18:02:04

Fantastic! Just Fantastic. Simply laid out, intredibly interesting, unique, good mechanics to progress through. This is very worth the price of admission.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gardens Of Ynn
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Ironsworn
Publisher: Shawn Tomkin
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2020 16:16:30

Wow! This is far, far better than expected and one of the best things I've purchased on this site. I say purchased - it was free which is all the more amazing! Essentially this is a very good structure for generating character-driven epic stories and campaigns without messing with minutia. You will find big challenges, epic exploration, unique and troubled characters and great quest arcs. You will not find tactical battle simulation or loot tables. Instead you'll find a very flexible and adaptable system for developing major character and story arcs and resolving them.

This feels to me like a cross between a RPG and a fantasy novel generation tool. I highly recommend it. A few things to be aware of:

  • This can be played guided but honestly it's designed for unguided solo or cooperative play (e.g. no GM)
  • It's going to be a lot of world-building effort on your part to play it successfully
  • You'll feel like you're "making it all up" a lot but it's interesting and has success/failure determined for you. If you would prefer a system where things are created for you and you respond to them this is not for you
  • The oracle tables are very good, some of the best I've seen. Note that I've purchased a ton of products with oracle tables and adventure generation tools and I consider most to be bad.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ironsworn
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Elminster's Guide to Solo Adventuring
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2020 16:08:33

This is excellent.

I've read and played with many solo adventuring systems. Lots of them are bloated full of tables that seem more concerned with quantity that quality and just generally create nonsense in a hope that you'll find a little bit of pattern in the chaos. This is not that. This is a simple, distilled, straightforward system for freeform solo play that gets to the point and does it well. If you're interested in dablling with freeform solo play in D&D I recommend trying this one out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elminster's Guide to Solo Adventuring
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D&D Solo Adventure: The Tortured Land
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/10/2020 00:01:20

This is a well constructed solo module. The balance is good, the combats are interesting and the story is engaging. If you like the previous titles in this series you'll like this one. It's not the strongest in the series and it really doesn't feel like part of the series but rather a complete departure from the previous modules. It is a pretty fun stand-alone adventure.

I'm docking this a star because of a weak climax, very disappointing survival mechanics which you're either well-suited to deal with or poorly suited because of basically dumb luck, a frustrating initial town experience and a lack of cohesion with the existing storyline. Don't let this deter you though, this module is very good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Solo Adventure: The Tortured Land
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D&D Solo Adventure: Citadel of the Raven
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2020 22:39:53

Another excellent solo adventure from Paul Bimler. I highly recommend this one. It's interesting, you have a lot of fun encounters and choices, an exceptionally organized game system and varied experiences. I highly recommend this. It's the second half of Tyrant of Zhentil Keep and honestly this one could stand on its own just fine, Tyrant of Zhentil Keep cannot.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Solo Adventure: Citadel of the Raven
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N3 Destiny of Kings (1e) (1986)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2020 22:00:57

I ran this adventure when it was brand new. Ended up killing my mom's character (oops!). Fun times. Honestly this is a pretty good adventure that does really feel very, very medieval. So medieval. You'll feel like you're in medieval England ("Throne of Dunador", "Fontenmore Abbey" and "The Drake & Castle Inn" are the kinds of names you'll experience here. This isn't a "monsters and wizards and magic items everywhere" Forgotten Realms experience, it's closer to a King Arthur or Swords and Sorcery where magic wielders are rare.

The players have a mystery to solve and a fairly open world experience which is rewarded with a cohesive world and a lot of fun, different and interesting (and often deadly). Also it's not really a "kill everything and win" kind of module. Another thing worth noting is that even though it says levels 1-4 (which isn't the more modern "start at 1, end at 4") what it really means is "we're liars, we claim it's is for 4-6 players levels 1-4 but if you're party isn't at least level 3 you're very, very dead"). Also this is one of the easiest modules to convert to 3.5/Pathfinder/5e I've ever come across.

I have to dock it a star because it suffers from so many of the problems common to modules of its era. The format and layout aren't great. It is very much "this is what's in this room" and lacks "these are the main people here" all in one spot for easier reference. Also many NPCs are generally reduced to combat statistics and maybe one sentence about who they are. On the plus side despite some modules created during the 80s are super sexist and/or racist, this module is not.

Another unfortunate sign of the times is that the text is extremely dense with only about a quarter of it being necessary. There is a section that describes an area of town as "Apart from Lemus and the odd porcine house pet, there is virtually nothing of interest in this area" and then continues for a very long paragraph going on and on about bakery hours and building construction materials and other irrelevent things that should probably be made up on the spot. What I'd prefer is all this wasted space be used to further develop the many low-level fighters that litter the castles or give more personality/backstory to the main NPCs. Essentially this means that unless you're a very fast reader your options are to force the players to wait every time they arrive somewhere new as you plow through mountains of unnecessarily verbose text or you have a lot of fairly boring reading homework to do before you can run this game.

This module is one of my original game group's all-time favorite modules for the 1980s/early 1990s. It is a good adventure and generally shows you a really, really good way to structure an interesting game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
N3 Destiny of Kings (1e) (1986)
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D&D Solo Adventure: Drums at Daggerford
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Cosmo C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2020 21:33:52

Another fantastic adventure, possibly the best one in this series yet. Exceptionally well done Paul.

This adventure has a lot of encounters, a mystery, interesting combats, lucid writing and a story you'll like become invested in. Solo adventures really aren't much better than this currently. Different approaches to solving problems work, different character builds should be fine (I played a paladin and thought that this would go just as well for a rogue).

I'm really looking forward to the next adventure in this series.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Solo Adventure: Drums at Daggerford
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Creator Reply:
Kind words, Cosmo, thank you. I hope you can see a progression
D&D Solo Adventure: The Death Knight's Squire
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by David Y. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/26/2020 16:05:29

This module is fantastic! Honestly just buy the 4 pack that includes this module, you won't regret it. Highlights include a very clear story and purpose, very well-balanced and interesting encounters, a large amount of content with replayability and and very well-structured solo game experience. You get good 1" grid game maps to print out, some free exploration, interesting combats and encounters, a somewhat non-linear experience and an exceptionally well-structured solo gamebook. There are many ways to structure a solo gamebook, this is the best I've seen.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Solo Adventure: The Death Knight's Squire
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D&D Solo Adventure: Tyrant of Zhentil Keep
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by David Y. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/26/2020 13:49:40

Excellent sequel to the excellent Death Knight's Squire, I really enjoyed this. It's very free-form with a lot more player agency than you usually find in solo adventures. There is a wealth of content and you can run it multiple times and discover new things each time. I'm considering going back to Zhentil Keep with the same character to just further explore the city. Additionally it's exceptionally well-balanced. I played a lvl 3 paladin and felt the combats were just the right challenge.

I feel I have to dock a star for some plot and technical issues. Some of the links don't work (e.g. first option on p. 12, entry #68, #82, etc) and plot-wise I would have liked a bit more of a purpose for why I was there and what I was doing initially. It was a fun time exploring the city of Zhentil Keep (really, really well-constructed solo exploration, nice job!) but I felt I was missing something in terms of my character's purpose for being there until the five minutes of the module. Also it would be really, really nice to have XP awards listed. You can deal with the broken links by manually scrolling to the right location.

Honestly this is a very good module and I highly recommend it. I intent to continue playing through this series with my paladin and I recommend you do too.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Solo Adventure: Tyrant of Zhentil Keep
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