Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 12 Days of Blogs-mas: Episode 1

So kicking off the 12 Days of Blogs-mas is a review of a gaming book I've been putting off until I got my hands on the hardcover copy I ordered. I could have reviewed the PDF copy I had but that's not how I roll.

 This is a new release from Frog God Games that is designed to assist DM's create and craft better adventures/dungeons/campaigns for their games. It's a hardcover book that clocks in over 300 pages, has a pretty sturdy binding, decent artwork inside that has a old school fantasy feel to it and the book costs $42.00

Now for the people who know me and my friends in my games I run who are scratching their heads thinking "Dude, why do you need this book? You can pull stuff out of thin air and make it awesome! You don't need this!". Well even a good DM and adventure designer needs help. And to be frank for a moment, the reason I've been running the Pathfinder AP's isn't just for being time restrictions but mostly because I haven't come up with an original home brew campaign world since my first one I ran way back in the 2nd Ed AD&D days.
My idea well is dried up and it sucks.

This book is a big book of ideas. No, its actually a big book of inspirations for ideas. The book is broken down into four distinct 'books' each having advice on the topic at hand but a metric butt-load of random generation idea tables to kick start your imagination. And yes I said 'metric butt-load'.

Book One: Principles and Starting Points discusses points on what kind of adventures you want to craft. The locations and missions the players will experience as well as what kind of villain you will have them deal with.

Book Two: Monsters gives DM's ideas to make the even the most mundane monster more unique through new ways to describe the look of the beasty (for example a construct that looks like an anteater instead of the normal description in the bestiary) to the more specific when it comes to designing a more unique monster encounter for your game.

Book Three: Dungeon Design gives tips and pointers on designing a dungeon adventure, map design, traps, mysteries and hooks to keep the players going to the end and assorted 'dungeon dressing' to flesh out the looks and even the smells of the environment.

Book Four: Non-Dungeon Adventure Design is the chapter where you get the ideas for other environments. You want a planar adventure? How about an underwater adventure? City? Forest? Swamp? Yeah, they have tables for all of those to help you out here.

Finally in the back is a index of all the tables in the book sorted in order by which book it comes from then the numerical order the tables appeared in. I appreciate all books like this that remembers to include an index like this for quick reference.

Initially this book seemed to be the book where if you have a game coming up shortly you can make some rolls on the tables and fairly quickly fabricate something for your players to run through. This is all well in good for the time where life got in the way of gaming and the clock is ticking. For me I saw the tables of rather generic ideas/statements/descriptions and how you roll d100 to see what kind of hodgepodge you get as the inspiration factory it is. And its something I'm looking forward to using in the future. Yeah, I can add stuff and flavor off the cuff while running a Pathfinder AP just to add flair but I haven't been able to sit down and create any kind of original adventure to run in a very long time.

The thought of that just ticks me off too. I know I was good at coming up with something completely original many years ago. From my 2nd Ed AD&D game that I completely home brewed to the 3.0/3.5 Forgotten Realms game I ran where at the end of the campaign the players discovered they were....well I'm not going to share that one. The look of shock on their faces was priceless when the pieces of the puzzle all fell together. But those were really good original ideas and I want to get back to that. I feel this book is the kick starter for that.

The book is in depth, chock full of tables for inspiration (heck about 80%+ of the book is tables) and all the info on the tables are generic enough to not be really specific and allow you, the DM, free reign to create your own twist on it. This book is a winner to me and I would recommend it to every DM who got stuck in a creative rut or one who wants to improve their craft more.

One final note about the Tome of Adventure Design is that its listed for use with the Pathfinder RPG and the Sword & Wizardry RPG but it's quite usable in any and every fantasy RPG. I didn't feel anything was specific to Pathfinder in its pages ( I don't know much about S&W though) so if you're a grognard still running AD&D I feel this will be a help to you as well.

Good job Frog God Games.