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Uncaged | Volume I
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Peter L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/14/2019 18:48:32

I like many of the vignettes in the collection (even if some overlap), but because all the adventures are intended to subvert expectations, you can't use them as-is more than once or twice in a campaign (with savvy players, definitely only once). As soon as players catch on to what you are doing, the impact of the story is lost, because not enough of the stories actually present a moral or ethical dilemma (the only dilemma, typically, is that something you'd normally fight isn't the bad guy, which is a primordial D&D trope). There's also an unfortunate sameness in identifying who is good or bad in each story, such that I highly recommend altering the villains somewhat if you're going to run several of these. I've seen a lot of praise for the artwork in the collection, but it doesn't stand out to me (it's not "Shore of Dreams" quality)--I'd call it adequate.

The formatting is clean, the structure is consistent, and adventures are (mostly) clearly defined and easy to follow. The adventures are easy to adapt to suit your own needs (most of the settings are easily transferred). It's a good, but not great, collection.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Uncaged | Volume I
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Classic Modules Today: U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Peter L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2018 09:53:27

Apologies for some formatting nonsense on my part below--what I wrote vs how it looks on the site are two different things, but it should be comprehensible nonetheless. [I've added a brief response to Mark below since I don't know how else to respond to it save by editing this.]

For whatever reason all of Mark Stout’s guides to the U-series have a blank second page—I’m not sure if this is padding or a formatting problem, but it’s annoying. Speaking of padding, the information contained in pages 4-8 is subsequently repeated on 9-10, so it seems like the actually substance of the pdf is just 4 pages.

Let’s ask some fundamental questions that I have for any conversion: Does the document discuss the plot of the adventure? No Does it go over potential pitfalls or special elements within the adventure? No. Does it offer any advice whatsoever? No. Does it explain the conversation process? No#. Does it explain the replacement of monsters/items? No%. Does it include custom monster equipment and explain why or why not it was included? No. Has it been updated with subsequent 5e releases? No@. #There is a free pdf which does, but it’s odd to not at least discuss it (I mean, there’s a blank page included—might as well fill it with something). % For example: why does a Ring of Protection become a Ring of Jumping?. @ For example: Aquatic Elves are now Sea Elves

Not going over the plot is particularly egregious because the events behind U1 are only fully detailed in U2 and U3—you cannot, as a DM, know what’s really going on in the series without reading those books (and knowing informs your decisions).

The only suggestion included in the document is one that’s already inside the original adventure itself: design the town (albeit without the specifics from the original included, even in summary).

There’s a big difference between AD&D (1e) and 5e that I think is glossed over here. For example: what good are spellbooks to Sorcerers or Warlocks? What does a DM do about 5e races that can either breathe water or can fly? What about the impact of PC’s gaining five times the magic items in a system that you can play with none? What about the assumed language barrier throughout the series which is minimal in 5e? It goes on and on.

This isn't to say the product doesn't have its good points, it's largely suffering from what it doesn’t have. What are the positives? Price, certainly, but what about the specifics? What does the pdf include? Random encounter tables (as found in the adventure). A list of all encounters by room. Updates for traps and skill checks (DC’s etc). A list of magic items (with updates where necessary). Updated spells (when necessary)

What you are getting is a time saver, but of a very specific kind. This pdf will serve you best if 1) you already know the material, but 2) are short on prep time and don’t want to have to review it. It’s a quick & dirty, combat-focused document that you can have at the ready to ignore the old 1e stat blocks when you run into them.

For anyone new to the adventure, however, it isn’t going to save you that much time. You still need to go through the adventure and figure it all out on your own (and in that process, you might have your own ideas about how you to convert things). There’s no comparing this product to, say, Sean McGovern’s supplementary material (which is filled with advice and solving problems from the published source). This is not a product that is going to help you understand the material at hand, it’s purely for running the adventure as-is.

[Mark's comment that explaining his process would be boring is a little bizarre--how can someone buying the product judge his decisions if they don't understand his rationale? It forces you to reverse engineer what was done and then figure out if those changes are ones you like, which means you didn't need the document in the first place since you're already converting work (figuring out the monster switches in the U3-conversation was a pain in the ass--adding time to my work rather than saving it).

[The Aquatic Elf explanation I don't understand at all--nowhere else have you substituted 'nomenclature' when a 5e variant exists. It feels like you simply didn't update the document once the Sea Elf was added.

[I appreciate the explanation for the blank page--although it's a very odd formating quirk to maintain. I'm well aware the latter two pages are intended to be easy to print--my broader point is simply how little content you've included (your intent isn't relevant, it's to let people know an 11-page pdf is really just 4 pages of content).]



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Modules Today: U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review Peter. I would like to clarify a few points. My conversions are sold purely as rules conversion documents. They are not guides offering advice on how to run, expand, or correct problems in the original module. I make that known in the description for each product thusly: "This conversion guide allows DMs to run the original module with 5th Edition rules and provides a reference sheet for encounters. To use this conversion guide you will need a copy of "U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh", originally available in hard-copy and now for sale in Digital format at DMsGuild.com. Classic Modules Today are a series of products that convert early edition Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rule set. They fully adhere to the rules set forth in the Community Content Agreement of the DMsGuild. The CCA states that adventure conversions must be: A streamlined, bare-bones conversion guide for someone who already owns the classic adventure — i.e., encounter-by-encounter conversion notes with any 5E stats needed, leaving out all other content." That last sentence above captures what my conversions do. I leave the process of reading, understanding, and interpreting the module to the individual Dungeon Master. While I think the idea of guidebooks are great, I have no intention currently of producing them, at least not under the Classic Modules Today line. Classic Modules Today was created to allow different people to create 5e conversions of older edition modules, and those of us who do so are bound by the creator's design requirements. I don't explain my rationale for changes in the conversions mainly because I don't want to bore people with minutiae. For the sake of clarity, I'll explain some of that here. Monsters are replaced with equivalents that currently exist in 5e publications that I own, or I create new ones with the information on pages 273-283 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. I tend to create new monsters or NPCs in preference to reskinning existing ones because it gives buyers a little more. Magic items that don't exist or are repetitive are replaced with a different item of the same rarity, or eliminated. Sometimes I will create a new item if I feel the lack of that item will be detrimental to the conversion. Encounters are not always rebalanced to 5e CR standards. If an encounter is supposed to be challenging in the older edition, but is lackluster when converted, I will alter it to retain the challenge. I usually do not reduce an encounter that turns out Hard or Deadly, especially if that is the intent of the original encounter. Nomenclature changes, such as Sea Elf to Aquatic Elf are often based on the older edition sources I reference when I make them, and often I'll reference anywhere from 3-4 editions to get the feel I'm looking for. The layout of the conversion is based on the creator's original layout used for his conversion of B4 The Lost City. I never inquired into his rationale for the blank second page. I usually print conversions without the cover, so when printing double-sided that blank page backs the cover so text doesn't bleed through. The second section that is repeated is the Quick Reference Guide. It's in a format of smaller text, condensed to take fewer pages when printed and in all black text to go easy on ink. I hope these explanations help. The last sentence in your review really does nail down what the CMT conversions are about: "This is not a product that is going to help you understand the material at hand, it’s purely for running the adventure as-is."
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