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Trouble in Ironboot Mine
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 14:31:04

Thorsteinn Mar's The Aranea Queen Part I: Trouble in Ironboot Mine is a campaign that brings characters from level 1 to level 4 over the course of three connected adventures. The campaign itself has a beautiful layout with a spider-themed header on every page. The main town of Deadsnows includes a handful of plot hooks should the party or DM choose to include additional side quests and adventures that could help to flesh out the campaign a bit between levels. Additionally, both the Ironboot Mine & Kobold Lair dungeons offer a variety of traps, monsters, and clues to challenge the players and allow them to piece together an overarching mystery. I really enjoyed reading through this campaign, and while I think it would make for a very classic-feeling, high fantasy campaign, I do have some feedback on ways the campaign could be improved.

First, there is a lot of fluff here. Whether it's in the extensive history of the dungeons, the NPCs, the region, or the town, the prose is meandering and unfocused with little material that will be important in any game. The whole campaign could have been made much more clear and digestable if it was boiled down to its essentials. Second, it's odd to me that the campaign gives so much detail in other areas and then just doesn't give any details for the caves in the lower area of the Ironboot Mine dungeon. Instead, there is a note instructing DMs to make something up "if your player wish to investigate where the cave leads." I've never played with characters who don't want to explore the entire dungeon! That's what many DMs buy these modules for-to fill our worlds with dungeons and adventures. Third, with the exception of the possibility that the players attempt to fight the adult red dragon in her lair (which would be deadly unless there were more than 10 players), almost every fight in this campaign is easy or medium difficulty, with very few encounters that come close to challengers the players in a significant way. And finally, the NPC Appendix doesn't actually include any NPC or monster statistics. It gives the NPC class, level, and background and leaves it up to the DM to create a character sheet or stat block for the NPCs themselves, creating more work for the DM.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun mini-campaign with a clear and beautiful layout for new players that uses classic fantasy tropes and includes lots of lore on the setting of the adventures, Trouble in Ironboot Mine is perfect for you. If you're looking for a campaign that you can read through quickly, run without much prep, or challenge your players with, you should probably look elsewhere. I want to be clear that I think this campaign is a really strong showing from Thorsteinn Mar and I look forward to their future work-I am simply hoping to provide helpful criticisms that could improve the quality of their future projects.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble in Ironboot Mine
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, Zeke. A constructive and helpful criticism is always welcome.
More Bears!
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 13:36:23

More Bears! by Bob Turpin delivers on exactly what is promises: no flavor text, no artwork, just more bears! There are 24 new bear monsters with CRs ranging from 3-10. My only issue with this product is that some of the higher CR monsters use magic and are still classified as "beasts" rather than "monstrosities" (could run into some wild shape or polymorph issues with a PC who wants to shift into the high CR bears) but that's more of a personal opinion that a fair criticism. The stat blocks are clear, ready-to-use at your table, and perfect for a DM who needs monsters for an adventure in a weird forest or the Beastlands!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
More Bears!
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Encounters in the Mists - Additional random encounters for Dungeon Masters
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 13:27:40

Hugh McCluskey's Encounters in the Mists contains 20 additional random encounters appropriate for a Curse of Strahd or other gothic horror-themed campaign. The short supplement is rife with spelling and grammatical errors, as well as often using unclear mechanics that require interpretation (for example: "dc 8 fear check," probably a Wisdom saving throw?). That being said, several of these encounters seems like a lot of fun, and I'm certainly going to include 11 of these (Morning Song, Blood to Bone, The Devil Has Appeared, Help Out a Friend?, A Lovers Parting Gift, An Ill Omen, Good Fortune, Well in the Dark, Cabin in the Woods, The Little Girl Lost, & A Loyal Companion) as random encounter options in my upcoming Curse of Strahd game!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Encounters in the Mists - Additional random encounters for Dungeon Masters
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Bailiwick War Snake
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2019 13:08:17

I really want to love Jacob Pyzikiewicz's Bailiwick War Snake. It's an incredibly cinematic, potentially epic encounter that proposes a unique challenge incorporating elements of the battlefield and strategy to make for a fun and unique fight. That being said, this supplement is little more than a handful of DM notes: some lore, an narrative paragraph on how the fight could play out, and three stat blocks (1 for the war snake itself, and 2 different solider blocks). However, the stat blocks are made in a way that suggests theater of the mind (bit can only be used 15 feet in front of the head, attacks that continue past players that they miss to hit the next player, and an unclear mount/dismount mechanic, a reaction with no trigger, yet because there are so many moving pieces it is difficult to visualize without at least an abstract drawing, which isn't included. On top of that, the stat blocks need serious polishing for a DM to be able to interpret and use as they are written.

Overall, if you are looking for inspiration for an epic encounter for a war-time fight, this supplement will give the framework to build your own interpretation of this very memorable encounter. If you're looking for a boss battle that you can print and run right away at your table, Bailiwick War Snake is not the supplement for you.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Bailiwick War Snake
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Item Crafting Rules for 5e
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 15:37:58

C. Stapleford's Item Crafting Rules for 5e is an in-depth dive into the use of various sets of tools or kits that come with one's background, as well as detailed mechanics for the cost, time, & ability of player characters to construct various items (both magical and non-magical). In my opinion, this supplement uses lots of math and several long examples where a simplified table or text box would convey the same information.

Overall, if you want more crunch to go with your crafting, this is the supplement for you! If you are looking for a simpler set of rules for crafting, I would recommend using Xanathar's Guide to Everything or creating your own simple rules instead.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Item Crafting Rules for 5e
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Realmspace Bestiary
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 15:24:58

Leonaru's Realmspace Bestiary contains 11 new monsters, many of which would be great creatures with which to populate alien planets or the Elemental Planes in D&D. The monsters range from humanoid to monstrous (I'm especially fond of the Eye of the Deep Beholder, Oortling, & Giant Praying Mantis) and each comes with some lore & ecological information as well as a well-formatted stat block. There are a small handful of minor spelling or formatting errors, but they in no way in impact the readability of this great supplement!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Realmspace Bestiary
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Spiders of Faerûn
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 15:08:46

As an entomologist, I greatly appreciate Guido Alfieri's Spiders of Faerun. In this supplement, you can find 4 new spider monsters: the Colossal Spider (CR 11), Hairy Spider (CR 1/8), Giant Spider Queen (CR 2), and Sword Spider (CR 3); a Spider Totem option for the Barbarian: Path of the Totem Warrior subclass; spider-centric adventure hooks; and advice for how to effectively use the Colossal Spider in an adventure. The new spider monsters offer some variants for DMs who would like to use more spider monsters in their game, though the stat blocks are not formatted well and cut across columns or pages, requiring scrolling up and down to make sense of them. The Spider Totem is a great offering that immediately inspired a Drow character for me, and the adventure hooks and advice are a useful way to encourage DMs to use the Colossal Spider in their game as a major obstacle or threat to low-level parties.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spiders of Faerûn
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6 Legendary Dungeon Doors
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 14:47:05

6 Legendary Dungeon Doors by Deadly Dungeons, a teaser for the Deadly Dungeon Doors Handbook, is a fun little supplement. Each of the 6 doors is illustrated, include details & lore, and offer unique obstacles for players to overcome. My two critiques are that the layout is a bit messy (some things bolded on some pages, but not on other pages, different fonts and text colors right next to one another, etc.) and that the language used is often unclear and not explained succinctly. Also, some of the language appears to be referring features of previous editions of D&D (Spot check?). That being said, these often-whimsical trapped doors take very little effort to go from this supplement into your game (many of them would be especially at home in a wizard's tower), and the illustrations are fantastic!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
6 Legendary Dungeon Doors
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Soul-Stitcher
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 14:29:47

Sean Palmer's Soul Stitcher is a fantastically flavorful and interesting class. While some abilities appear really powerful (the Tailor subclass's Quick Stitch), others appear really weak by comparison (Thread Cutter, the level 20 feature, is essentially a weaker Cutting Words). That being said, the overall balance of the class seems to be alright. Each of the subclass options (Dollmaker, Tailor, & Smokeweaver) offer very different utility to a party and I think it would be very fun to play this in a oneshot or to construct a very unique NPC.

Overall, the Soul-Stitcher offers a very unique character or NPC option for both players & DMs. The document is clear and the subclasses each offer a very distinct suite of features.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Soul-Stitcher
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Fey Nightmares
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 14:00:02

Adam Locke's Fey Nightmares is one of the first bestiary supplements I downloaded as a baby DM, and it clearly wedged itself deep into my DM brain. Many of the encounters from my first published adventure are inspired by the 6 fey monsters found in this supplement. The monsters here are fun & flavorful, with everything required to create a meaningful encounter and weave these creatures into the lore of your world. My only critique here is a handful of typos (the Bauggle has 216 Strength) and some unclear grammar and wording in a handful of entries.

If you're looking for monsters to populate the Feywild or a Sylvan forest, this is a fantastic and easily digestible supplement to add to your DM binder!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fey Nightmares
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Monsters & Minions
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2019 10:46:53

Shaun Zeeuwen's Monsters & Minions provides exactly what it promises: 21 classic fantasy monsters (CR 1/8 - 5, 13) and variants of existing monsters, such as the Bandit Archer, Bandit Caster, & Bandit Thug. This supplement is clean & simple and contains no art or tables. Three of these monsters (Barghest, Bulezau, & Yeth Hound) now have official stat blocks from Wizards of the Coast, but the other monsters still make for an interesting addition to any DM binder, though some of the monster's mechanics are worded in an unclear or unintuitive way. In particular, I want to highlight the potentially very dangerous Nekker (CR 1) & the eerie Bell Crow (CR 13), both of which will definitely show up in my upcoming Curse of Strahd campaign!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters & Minions
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Adventurous Archetypes, Vol. 1
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/15/2019 12:07:00

Fiona Elliott's Adventurous Archetypes, Vol. 1 is an interesting supplement that contains 12 new subclasses, each of which offers a fresh take on high fantasy tropes. Regardless of the previous reviews, I found the writing to be clear and succinct with each subclass taking up less than a page, and often associated with some nice art that breaks up the text and makes the document easier on the eyes. I think that most of the archetypes within this supplement are really fun and offer interesting opportunities for character creation. However, I do agree with the previous reviewers that several of the sub-classes seem overpowered with passive damage buffs or really powerful combinations of abilities. In particular, I would be wary to allow a player to use the Barbarian: Path of the Wildfire (though it is super dope and flavorful); Ranger: Storm Enclave (really evocative with great roleplaying opportunities, but also super powerful); and the Rogue: Pactkeeper (essentially a Warlock/Rogue hybrid class that grants some of the most powerful benefits for each class under a single subclass banner). My only other critique is a bit of a nitpick, but I'm hoping it is constructive criticism. Monk: Way of the Changing Tides has fun, waterbending flavor, but some of the mechanics seem a bit miscalculated. For example, while in water, "each ki point you spend on your Tidal Whips counts twice towards the benefits you gain" but the ki point use requirements are all odd numbers, which makes that benefit unintuitive and feel a bit wasteful.

Overall, this is a fun supplement that can definitely inspire some amazing character creation, but look carefully at the power level of the classes and talk to the DM before you use one of these sub-classes.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurous Archetypes, Vol. 1
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Countess' Guide: Beasts and Blights
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2019 15:59:56

The Countess' Guide to Beasts and Blights by Stephen Wood is a fun & fabulously illustrated bestiary containing 17 new monsters. Despite the indication by the title, the monsters inside this supplement range widely and include fiends, oozes, humanoids, aberrations, beasts, constructs, undead, and even a small dragon. Each of the 17 monsters comes with great flavor text to inspire adventures and encounters as well as beautifully colored illustrations that encapsulate the vision of the creatures. However, while I think the ecology and information about these creatures is really fun, several of the stat blocks are missing important information, have major errors, and/or have dramatically incorrect CR values. As such, it may be difficult for a DM to run these creatures as-written. The creatures seem to lack traits that are important in their flavor text and, while I normally don't like to critique spelling and grammar, my understanding of the bestiary was impacted by the sheer number of errors. That being said, I think these monsters are a lot of fun and just the flavor text alone really brings them to life.

If you're looking for WotC-standard stat blocks for monsters that you can run without modification or improvisation, this is not the supplement for you. If you're looking for monsters that you can improv easily that have unique traits, features, and background that come with excellent art to inspire your encounters and show your players, you will absolutely get a lot of value from this bestiary!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Countess' Guide: Beasts and Blights
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The Bleating Hills
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/07/2019 22:54:05

The Bleating Hills is a well-produced adventure for level 3 characters by Magic Goblin. The art adds a really fun, spooky medieval tone to the product and the layout is well-designed. There is a new mechanic called the tension pool that increases the difficulty of the final encounter based on the decisions of the players, and seems like a really engaging, physical way to increase the exigence of the adventure. This adventure offers useful notes on roleplaying important NPCs, an opportunity to track enemies through the snowy mountains, a level-appropriate random encounter table, fun combat with environmental hazards, and the exploration of a cave dungeon. The dungeon offers flavorful treasure, a fun puzzle, and a handful of new enemies in the demon-worshipping, goat-men called the kashog! However, I do have a few major critiques of the adventure as well:

  1. The final fight in the dungeon is very deadly for APL 3 characters. The boss monster, a kashog shaman named Bindelu, can do 7d6 damage two turns in a row (a saving throw on which at least some of the player characters will have disadvantage due to the aforementioned tension pool) on top of her minions: 4x CR 1/2 monsters and 1x CR 2 monster. Especially given the ramp up in difficulty with the tension pool (even a chance that the altar itself can cast chill touch for free every turn on the party), I would definitely remove enemies from this fight were I to run the adventure.

  2. It is impossible for the players to achieve their objective-the woman they are attempting to save is already gone before the party even arrives at the dungeon. I hesitate whenever I see an adventure where the heroes can't win- in my experience it can be a serious let-down at the table, especially in the wake of such a difficult boss fight. This especially gives me pause because the adventure isn't actually concluded at the end of the module, but rather it quenes up into the next module Magic Goblin aims to release. This is a pretty big pet peeve of mine: when adventures intended to be part of a series are released as indiviudal modules that really can't be run as independent, stand-alone adventures with a satisfactory conclusion. In my opinion it would be much more satisfying to have the woman at the end be the woman that the party is seeking, and create other, smaller open threads on which future adventures can be built, such as a possible alliance betwen Bindelu and the party, which I touch on next.

  3. Despite learning later that Bindelu has a potential interest in aligning her goals with the party, there is no text devoted to an attempt at diplomacy or peaceful resolution. Were I to run this adventure, I would definitely include the possibility that Bindelu may want to negociate with the party, given that she hates her superior (who, in the adventure as it's written, is now in possession of the woman the party has been hired to save). It's a situation perfect to present the party with some potentially untrustworthy allies or at the very least an interesting moral decision.

If you're looking for an adventure that stands alone as a low-level oneshot or one that gives the players complex moral questions, this is not the product for you. However, if you are looking for a moody, atmospheric adventure that provides a challenge to players and sets the stage for a dark campaign centered around bloody cults and demon worship, then The Bleating Hills is exactly what you need!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Bleating Hills
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Tomb of Nyarlathotep
Publisher: Brian Seligman
by Zeke G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/07/2019 22:50:17

I think the Tomb of Nyarlathotep has a really fun, cosmic-horror inspired story and atmosphere. The reskinning of the enemies is tremendously flavorful and I love the conceit of the final boss battle with interactive environmental elements while Nyarlathotep tries to dominate the players into killing one another.

My main critique is that the adventure background needs to be better integrated into the adventure itself. I recognize that the adventure is designed for the CthulhuCon Film Festival, so the players there probably picked up on the story quickly with simple hints. However, a table of players not as intimately familiar with the Cthulhu mythos could find piecing together the background of the adventure from the tomb's mosaics rather difficult. Sprinkling the background into the adventure as secrets for the party to discover would really allow the players to uncover the history of the tomb. I think including inscriptions to go with the mosiacs or giving the treasure items additional flavor would go a long way to improve the exploration aspect of the adventure. As a much more minor critique, the map is somewhat difficult to interpret.

If you're looking for an adventure with beautiful art and a clean, organized layout, this is not the adventure for you. However, if you're looking for a low-level dungeon packed with cosmic horror and atmospheric dread that you can plug into your own games, this adventure is perfect for you.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tomb of Nyarlathotep
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