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Puzzle Master
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by JB L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/24/2020 17:24:56

The truth is, I do not like puzzles. I often find them tiring, hard to navigate, and unrewarding. Any time a riddle or a puzzle comes up in the game, I completely check out mentally and wait for someone else to figure it out. I'm happy to say, despite who I am as a person, this PDF has a lot for you. Here's why:

It's got a hook. The puzzle dungeon is not only a title, it's a PLACE. A physical (or metaphysical) place that your party can be picked up and dropped into for fun. Actual FUN, can you imagine? There's a story behind why Aenigma wants adventurers to partake and the party is graded based on their performance to offer more complex prizes - from some gold to a huge amount of gold and a magic item. The whole book is self contained and presented as an adventure - the puzzles themselves are in an appendix for you to use elsewhere if you like.

Low frustration. From my time playing this adventure and looking at these puzzles, they're not going to make you pull your hair out (though one of them makes absolutely no sense to me, personally because 'magic'). Each puzzle is given a difficulty and each puzzle has multiple fail states - your party can fail a puzzle multiple times and still get the full score for the dungeon so long as they don't require hints from the kobolds inside. Each puzzle also comes with a tips section to aid you in describing the puzzle, the handouts (some of which are mandatory - be warned), and the setting. The whole point in design, I feel, was to make the puzzles NOT cause the party to feel stupid or inept. They're cumbersome and sometimes complex, but because they can be brute forced sometimes or worked through without hints - it works.

Variety. When we played, there were 2-3 puzzles that people just clicked with and understood completely. On the other hand, there were a few that people couldn't wrap their heads around at all but were ODDLY EASY for others. That duality is not black and white - it's the perfect gray area in terms of puzzles. If only one or two players figured out every puzzle, then you'd have a whole table sitting there doing nothing. Word puzzles, spacial puzzles, operation/order puzzles, cryptography - there's a lot of variation in each one. Considering this is an introductory volume, that sets the stage for a lot of other versions of each.

Overall, I think this is a solid purchase for many. A cool black and white aesthetic with splashes of color for the puzzles, a weird and wacky story of a peculiar dragon, a decent layout with space for notes, well-made handouts - it's got everything you could ask for in a puzzle supplement. That's not to say it's flawless or perfected - there's very little team play in this volume, no puzzles that require multiple people working in tandem - it's more catered to massaging the players' brains than the PCs', but that works very well for smaller gropus. The big plus is - you'll not be recycling the same 3-4 reddit posts when looking for inspiration, thank god. Pick it up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Puzzle Master
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Dino World
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by JB L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2020 16:53:11
Overview

This adventure is a tight and quirky jaunt onto a dinosaur infested island. Set in Ebberon, it has scientific trappings one might find in our real world, but juxtaposed over a fantasy setting. The adventure borrows heavily in feel from classics like Jurrassic Park, Dino Crisis, and many 1990's style adventure videogames, which works well for the size and scope of the adventure.

The Bad
  • If you do not love Ebberon or run a game set in that world, this adventure will not give you a lot of new material to plug and play in your own adventures and games.
  • The appendices are pretty bare bones, Adventurers' League style. Monster stats, maps, and little else.
  • I can see many parties being a little confused as to where they should go or what they should do at parts of this adventure. It's designed so that no matter what path they take, they will reach a satisfying conclusion and complete their mission, but your players may not actually KNOW that they're on the "right path," which can be a problem for some.
The Good
  • This adventure is dripping with a quirky, fun style. The puns and jokes bring a lighthearted flavor to make sure this romp into dino country doesn't feel TOO pessimistic and deadly.
  • The NPCs are surprisingly well done. There is very little word count devoted to the NPCs present in the adventure, but key sentences and quriks make them all feel more alive than they should, given how little there is about them - a tip of the hat for great design philosophy there.
  • The adventure is what it promises to be: you can play it as a one-off easy side quest to see a dinosaur island full of literally every published dionsaur stat block, or you can make it a branch from the much larger Ebberon narratives. The seeds and hooks are there for you to use or ignore - which is always welcome.
  • Though much of the art is reused from WotC's other publications, this adventure being a Guild Adept offering means you do get fun and robust images to break up the layout and text. The art that was made for this adventure specifically will not disappoint at all - it's all really well done.
Overall

It's $4. A guild adept adventure written by a talented voice in the D&D community, edited by one of the golden geese of WotC, just reading through it is well worth the cost of admission and if you run it one time, it's more than paid for itself twice over. Pick this one up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dino World
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DDAL-ELW06 A Holy Visit
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by JB L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/05/2018 20:19:27

An infiltration designed to titilate and raise curiosity - one of a few Adventure League titles that doesn't devolve into "hit with stick until complete."

I have to say, firstly, that it's been two years since I've bought and ran and Adventurer's League title. The only reason I broke down and purchased this one was the amazing potential there was having Ashley Warren involved in any capacity.

Not an average adventure. This piece is designed from the first mission statement to the end of the document to assure you that it is not your traditional A.L. affair. Most rely on exploration and combat, sometimes a hand-full of NPCs to keep pushing the adventurers along. Where A Holy Visit shines is bucking that trend for an incursion into infiltration. To quote the adventure, it is "a heist for the most powerful weapon in war: information."

Clipped design. The thing I love about Ashley's work is her focus on small details to bring about inspiration for a scene. This adventure is not flooded with unrequired details on distances or manufacture, the "read aloud" text is kept to a minimum in all respects, but short blurbs on lighting in a dusty chamber full of rotted boxes and dried, forgotten mortar pales gives you exactly what you need to flesh out the location on your own, saving you valuable real estate in the document.

Easily Expandable. I look at these as a coloring book - how can I use this to create something new. The adventure structure is broken up into three parts, each break between parts feels like a break in an hour long television show, promoting that feeling of advancement. At each of the breaks, it's easy to inject new NPCs, short quests, interesting scenes, or character moments into the developing adventure. I'm a bit verbose when it comes to running my personal games, but I believe I could get 2 or three full four-hour sessions out of this one module. Tacked onto the adventure, for all you homebrew fans, is a well established and interesting tavern setting that's expounded on here in the adventure - including two side-quests that could be positioned before the party even begins the third leg of the quest.

Interrogation is tricky. someone has information you need in D&D? Chances are good they will be missing a few pieces if they don't talk immediately - if they aren't murdered first. This is a warning for anyone who is sensitive to undue bodily harm. If you do not enjoy the prospect of watching your PCs peel the fingernails off of someone begging for the pain to stop - I'd come into this adventure with a mind to alter it, slightly, to disallow said actions.

Solo Adventure: Good set-up, great execution, very weak pay-off. What is here is very solid - solid enough I'd enjoy running it. The goals are overstated in the beginning and middle to make sure the DM has a quick snippet to default to in times of need. The only weakness of this adventure is a disheartening lack of pay-off for the adventurer's efforts.

Without spoiling too much, the adventurers track down much needed information and uncover an incredibly cool plot in the works. Since the antagonist is deemed a necessity to another published adventure, there is an exceedingly minimal "showdown" to the final scene of the adventure, particularly if a band of NPCs aid the companions. This is no fault at all of the writing/author - it's deisgned to sell the next installment, and I believe it will ceratinly do that.

For Homebrew people, I suggest you find a mechanical monstrosity - a clockwork creature from MtoF, perhaps - and have it be a silent guardian to the final scene of this adventure to give your players something to sink their teeth into and warn of danger to come in the future instalments.

Overall: 5/5 I love the writing - so consice and consistent to be commendable. The layout is page-heavy but promotes a separation between legs of the adventure, which prevents pages from bleeding together into a hard-to-sort mess. I only read it and found myself very interested on what comes next, so overall - it does everything it set out to accomplish. Well done.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL-ELW06 A Holy Visit
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Notice Board: 50 Quest Seeds for Towns and Cities
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by JB L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/20/2018 18:32:47

I saw this and thought "oh snap! I inspired other people to do notice board quests! That's cool. And was going to just chalk it up to the economy of the world. Then a friend of mine said "Wow... what if they copied all of your quests?" So I had to buy it and make sure.

I like the presentation being on tons of different nocie boards - it looks really good that way. A little hard to read on some of the fonts, but overall it's nice.

The biggest problem here, in my opinion, is that a lot of the quests are just for a laugh: "I need cats and dogs and hedgehogs... and other things. -Torsten from the Stinky House" "Most of those poor souls are missing blood; lots of tasty tasty blood." "The pantaloons of our dear lord mayor ... are missing." "May the tenant of room 13... be so kind to return... pay the outstanding rent and remove the summoned spectator?"

I can tell a LOT of work went into this thing, but so many of the notices are unpolished and rife with gimmick (like a notice from an emmesary of Glasya, archdutchess of Malbolge in the nine hells asking for souls) that I doubt half of them will be used very much - which is a damn shame considering the time and effort put into the presentation and the various NPC names.

The PDF even has suggested maps (though i see no artist source or credit? That makes me wary) and suggested outcomes to the various quests, including tons of NPCs.

If your campaign is a little slapstick, very light hearted, or you really love the presentation of Notice boards - I do think you could be happy with this product. I'd love to see the sheer amount of time and energy in this paired with a more thoughtful/useable set of quests.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Notice Board: 50 Quest Seeds for Towns and Cities
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Creator Reply:
Hello JB L., I'm sad to hear that some of the fifty quests don't fit the style of your campaign. I hope you can enjoy the rest of them nevertheless! On the other hand, I'm glad to hear that you found no problem with the presentation and the overall quality of the product. I always put in a 100% and make sure that my customers get a solid product for the price they pay. I always enjoyed the idea of quests you can find on notice boards, for example in the cRPG Dragonage which was released in 2009. The special thing about notice boards is that there is no quality control concerning the posted notes and the notes do not need to adhere to any strict guidelines or format. If you fear that someone copied your work or the work of others you can report the title using the 'Report this title' button or you can send an e-mail directly to jasonbolte@onebookshelf.com. There is no need to buy the product beforehand, and I can offer you one of my other products as compensation. I always make sure to properly attribute the work of 3rd parties in the section titled 'Credits'. There you can find the sources of all the used pictures and here you can find information about the legal side of things: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en Regards, Christian Eichhorn
Masks: A New Generation
Publisher: Magpie Games
by JB L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2017 19:03:16

MASKS: A New Generation - Comprehensive Review by DropTheDie

Masks is another Powered by the Apocolypse powerhouse. A simple 2d6 system that uses storycrafting, drama, and continuous "moves" to keep the action and roleplay moving at a brisk pace. This "hack" of the PbtA system is all-inclusive, everything you need to run the game is included in this purchase, excluding the dice.

Masks' general principle, unlike other Superhero TTRPG games I've been part in, is that all teenage supers are dyanmic and capable people struggling to make the world see their merit and learn who they are and what they can do. Each player has access to a wide variety of playbooks that help focus narrative decisions in-game.

A humble Beacon might be more concerened about "living it up" than being a crime busting superhero, or they might be trying to prove exactly how capable an average person can really be in this superhero world. The Bull might be a hulking brute that smashes her way through any and everything, or they might be a teen torn between their intimate relationship with their significant other and their team. No playbook mandates the roleplay; they are designed to help you represent what it is you want your character to be and do - not to dictate it.

The book's layout is very good. Many aspects of the game that are confusing or too vague (as the entire Rules System is meant to be more vague than other traditional RPGs) are delved into to bluntly explain how the moves and abilities were intended to work. Each playbook has themes and examples of where the ideas, the "bones," of these characters came from.

MASKS has one big speedbump, however. No matter how well the system represents the city of Halcyon, or how well the book discusses how the Master of Ceremonies (who runs the game) should engage their players, it is extremely dependant on their skill to tell an interesting story. This game is absolutely not meant to just be fight after fight after fight. The mechanics of the game are such that a player must CHOOSE to "Pass out, flee, ect" only after a certain threshold is reached, which 90% of the time, no one does. This means that if your fights are not intense and dangerous in scope to the world-at-large, they will just be arbitrary roll-till-you-win matches.

*A good example*: "You make your way to the plaza mall and meet up with Becky and Jona. The both of them wave at you from a low seat in the food court - a hot pizza sitting on the table between them. You hear next to you, a very familiar electronic voice that whispers: 'One move, Axle... one move, and I'll bring the building down.' Mirage - the shape changing supervillain looks out at you from under the brim of her wide hat. What do you do?" *A bad example*: "You're eating a cinnamon bun with the rest of your team, hanging out in the caffiteria at school, and the Metal Wombat crashes through the window and screams 'LET'S FIGHT!'"

Luckily there are a ton of resources online to help guide you in your venture to run the perfect game of Masks. Only one person in your group need purchase the book to try it out - as players have very little information in the book that the MC cannot explain to you at the table, making this a perfect introductory buy. We've been playing for months now and each of us has a copy at this point!

This game gets my seal of approval - check it out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks: A New Generation
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