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B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)
by Iain B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/11/2021 12:17:23

Just received my POD. Beautifully put together, with the main map in the original blue shade put in a double-page spread at the back of the book instead of the inside covers, which is much preferred, thank you! Very pleased with the quality.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)
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HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2021 12:16:56

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/09/review-hr1-vikings-campaign-sourcebook.html

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For today's review, I am only going to consider the PDF version of this book from DriveThruRPG. I lost or sold back my original in one of my moves or collection downsize. I will mention details from the physical book as I remember it, but my focus is on the PDF for the details. In most cases the material is 100% the same, the difference coming from the fold-out map, which is separate pages in the pdf.

HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1992), by David "Zeb" Cook. Illustrations by Ned Dameron and cartography by David C. Sutherland III. 96 pages, black & white with full-color maps.

The first book of the Historical Reference series covers the Viking raiders of Scandinavia. It is not a separate game world per se, since it deals with Pagan Europe after the fall of Rome, but it is a fantastical Europe where dragons fill the seas, troll-blooded humans walk among us, and somewhere out there in the wilderness, a one-eyed man wanders the land.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter covers the very basics, starting off with what people usually get wrong about the Vikings. These guys are not Hägar the Horrible or even the interpretations of Wagner. They do point out that "Vikings" are also not really a people, but a lifestyle that some people engaged in.

This section also covers how to use this book, specifically how to use this book about Vikings and the history of their raids with the AD&D 2nd Rules. We get into more specific details in the next chapters.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Viking History

Starting with the raid at Lindisfarne in 793 CE the book covers a very basic history of the Northmen's lands, the lands they raided, and their culture and history. The focus here though is through the lens of an AD&D game, not a historical introduction. The book is clear on this.

Details are given, with maybe extra focus on England and France (though they are not called that yet) but that is fine. There is a very nice timeline running across the top of the pages of this chapter that is rather handy. The time period, roughly 800 to 1100 CE agrees with most of the scholarship on "Viking History" so that works fine for here as well.

There is a nice list of settlements and cities the Vikings targeted. Not a full list, but it gives you an idea of how much of Europe, Northern Africa, and even parts of Asia the Vikings would roam.

There is a page or so of suggested readings. Likely the best at the time. The chapter does set you nicely to explore these ideas further.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

Here we get into game writing proper. We start with what races you will find in a Viking-themed campaign. Obviously, we are talking mostly humans here. Humans can gain a "Gift" something that makes them special such as "Rune Lore" or "Bad Luck" or even a Seer. There is a new "race" the Troll-born. These are stronger than average humans due to troll-blood in their veins. They get a +1 to Strength, Constitution and Intelligence but a -1 to Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma. They have Infravision and are limited to 15th level in their classes. They are not born with Gifts.

Next, we cover the changes to the Character Classes from the PHB. Fighters on the whole tend to be unchanged as are Rangers and Thieves. Classes not allowed are Clerics, Paladins, Druids, and Wizards, though specialty mages are allowed if they are Conjurers, Diviners, Enchanters, Illusionists, Necromancers. While this could be a negative for some I like the idea of limiting classes for specific campaigns. Two new sub-classes of the Warrior are added, the Berserker and the Runecaster. Both do pretty much what you might suspect they do. The berserker is actually rather cool and while the obvious roots here are the barbarian and berserker monster from AD&D 1, there is enough here to make it work and be interesting too. Runecasters know runes as detailed in the next chapter.

The "forbidden" classes can be played, if they are outsiders.

Lip service is given to the detail that the Vikings were predominantly men. Though new archaeological finds are casting some doubt that they were exclusively so. This book does give some examples of how warrior women were known. They emphasize that player characters are always exceptional.

There is a section on names (including a list of names), homelands, and social class.

In the purist AD&D 2nd ed section, we get some new Proficiencies.

Chapter 4: Rune Magic

This covers Rune Magic. An important feature of Viking Lore. What the runes are and how to use them in AD&D 2nd Ed terms are given. A lot of these are minor magics, say of the 0-level or 1st-level spell use. I personally don't recall them being over abused in games, but they are a really nice feature to be honest.

Chapter 5: ...And Monsters

Monsters are discussed here, starting with which existing monsters can be used from the AD&D 2nd Monstrous Compendium. Following this some altered monsters are given. For example, there is the Gengånger which is a zombie with some more details.

Dwarves and Elves are given special consideration, as are trolls and giants.

There is not however any "new" monsters in the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We will get those in the Celts book, but that is next time.

The section is split with a "centerfold" map of Europe.

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

Vikings were Vikings because of the treasure they sought. They also had the best ships in Europe at this time. So let's spend some time with these.

We start with a section on money. For the game's simplicity, these are reduced to a couple of systems. Coins are usually categorized by make-up and weight. There is some good material here really and something that most games should look into.

Treasure covers the typical treasures found. Also, treasure was a central piece of Viking lore; it was how chieftains paid their men, it was what they stole from others, and it was also how they were paid off NOT to steal. Some space is given to Magic Items as well. This is an AD&D game after all. Some "typical" magical treasure is discussed and some that are not found at all. A few new items are also detailed.

Chapter 7: The Viking Culture

This chapter gives us are biggest differences from a typical AD&D game. For illustrative purposes, we follow a young Viking, Ivar Olafsson, in a year of his life. Now I rather liked this because it gave me a character situated in his life and culture. While it is not the most "gamble" material it is good background material.

There is a section on Social Ranking and a little more on the role of Viking women. I think after 6 seasons of watching Katheryn Winnick kick-ass as Lagertha in Vikings, this section will be read and cheerfully ignored. That is great, but this bit does talk about, and support, the image that Viking women had it better than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

We also get into the sundries, quite literally; Food, drink, homes, farms, and trade. There is a section on religion with lots of nods towards the AD&D 2nd Ed Legends and Lore.

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

AD&D 2nd Ed is celebrated not really for its advances in game design or rules, but rather the campaign worlds. This book, and this section, in particular, is a thumbnail of why these celebrations are merited. Or, as I call it, just give me a map! This section is more than a map and maybe not as much as the famed Mystara Gazetteers, but the relationship is not difficult to pick out.

This covers, rather briefly (as it says in the title), the lands the Vikings would roam to. And there are a lot of those! In addition to the lands of Europe, Africa, Asia, and yes even North America, we get the fantastic worlds of the Vikings. If I had done this book this would have been Chapter 2 or 3 at the very least. This chapter is all too brief in my mind.

We get a longship design at the end and in the PDF what was the fold-out map.

--

So in truth a really fun resource. The AD&D game material is there, but this book could be used with pretty much any version of D&D or even many other games. 3rd Edition/Pathfinder players might lament the lack of Prestige Classes, but the Rune MAgic section can be easily converted to a Feat system. 5th Edition Players would need to work the Berserkers into a Barbarian sub-class/sub-type, but that would be easy enough.

It is not a perfect resource, but it is really close. I am really regretting selling off my physical copy now.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
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One Grung Above (5e)
by Jonathan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2021 16:40:59

honestly, I only got this for the Grung race writeup and it was well worth it IMO.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Grung Above (5e)
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The City of Greyhawk
by simon s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2021 12:33:06

Great book with loads of ideas. The only problem i have is with the soft cover which i purchased. The maps are not seperate, infact they are prrinted, A4, back to back in the rear of the book. No use to anybody, a seperate booklet or even single sided printing would be so much better. Cannot use the maps as they stand.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The City of Greyhawk
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Volo's Guide to Waterdeep (2e)
by Ben E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2021 11:45:55

I am so impressed with the print on demand. Quality is terrific and it came sooner than I expected.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Volo's Guide to Waterdeep (2e)
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DDAL05-11 Forgotten Traditions (5e)
by Purple B. P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2021 12:59:05

Dropped this seamlessly in to chapter 3 of Storm King's Thunder. It fantastically delivered some needed exposition in a fun, engaging way that my party really enjoyed. They liked the imaginitive twist on the "potions" as well!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL05-11 Forgotten Traditions (5e)
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Player's Handbook, Revised (2e)
by Jason W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2021 09:36:26

This reprint uses very thick and heavy paper, which makes it more like a college text book, than a typical gaming book. Its very thick, heavy and bulky, especially when transported with the DMG and MM. Those asking for a hardcover don't know what they are asking for. Overall, the quality is good. The paper, while thick, is not glossey like the originals and modern prints. This may make them a little more prone to stains. Also, the art is little faded as a result. A lot of people judge these books on the art. I never understood that, but if that's your thing, these reprints are bad. I personally would rather get a cheaper book with less art and more content, than a more expensive book with more art and less content. My only real complaint is that there is no character sheet, which I could have sworn there was one in the 1989 edition. Regardless, 2e is the last real edition of Dungeons and Dragons before Wizard's took over and decided to personalize it with their own branding. Subsiquent editions bare little resemblence to what Gary Gygax invisioned. In this edition, characters are far less frontloaded with special abilities than 3e, 4e, and 5e. Instead you are expected to build your character by exploring and adventuring stead of getting it all at character creation and level ups. Spells get insanely powerful as they go up in ranks, but getting there is extremely difficult as Wizards start with next no survivability. Magic items are powerful, and even the lowest magic items can be game changing. You wont see anyone passing on magic items because they are limited to 3, or because they have more powerful class abilities.

I wont say 2e is better than any other edition. Each have there merits and only 1e and 2e are comparably. 2e is an updated and expanded version of 1e, a true new edition, while 3e, 4e and 5e are completely different games. 2e does have the bennefit that its easy to convert into a low fantasy setting, which is near impossible in 5e. 2e also has far more content available than any other edition. You have available every type of setting, and enough suppliment material you will not live long enough to read it all. You also have hundreds of adventures of every type to choose from. My only real complaint about 2e is that some of the rules got way too in the weeds and that the settings, while very flourished, lacked story hooks. This was something Wizards did well to improve on. 5e settings may not be nearly as flourished as 2e, but they offer a lot more useful material per page.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Handbook, Revised (2e)
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Al-Qadim: Land of Fate (2e)
by Damian F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2021 04:30:14

Content warning is completely unnecessary, this is a stellar piece of work that's great at helping you understand the land of Zakhara.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Al-Qadim: Land of Fate (2e)
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EBERRON: Eyes of the Lich Queen (3.5)
by Mark T H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2021 20:37:10

This module is really well written in terms of plot and stakes, and it shows off the best parts of the Eberron Campaign Setting.

The dungeon designs are serviceable if mediocre... but there are 2 issues that make this book practically unplayable (at least on a virtual table top)

  • The division between tactical and non-tactical encounters. While running an enouncter, you constantly need to switch between the "tactical" and non-tactical versions which are in different parts of the book (this is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the book has ToC markers in the PDF).
  • Absolutely terrible with scale. In the second dungeon (there are 3 in the module, a temple, a tomb, and a planar observatory/dragon lair), the zoomed in and non-zoomed in versions of the map have different scales (sq = 5ft vs 1sq = 10ft), but the number of sqares is the same, so one must be wrong, (the zoomed out map is correct, and all the individual zoomed in maps are wrong.. and you can tell by the size of the monsters on the zoomed in maps). In the last dungeon, the map scale cannot match the size of creatures. There are 2 adult dragons both of which should be 15ft by 15ft which is either 1.5sq x1.5sq on 10ft or 3sq by 3sq if a square is 5ft. One dragon is 1.5sq and ther other is 1sq. The map is marked such that one sq = 5ft. What am I suposed to do with this (I ended up not needing to decide because my players are cowards, but that's not a problem with the module)


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
EBERRON: Eyes of the Lich Queen (3.5)
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Infernal Font
by Joseph C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/20/2021 17:27:59

Not much to say other than the font looks great, it's nice to have this to add some panache to your props and spice up a Descent Into Avernus or other infernal campaign. And the money goes to charity! What's not to love?



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Infernal Font
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Unearthed Arcana (1e)
by Aaron S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/18/2021 19:23:27

Overall, I think this is better quality than the original, which frequently fell apart. My POD copy had several issues. The cover art was not centered, but had shifted about half an inch upward. About 4 of the pages had misprints. Looks like somehow the paper shifted in the middle of the print and half of the page had 2 side-by-side imprints which make the text look blurry. Can I read and use it. Yes, and I supposed that's fine because this is not a collector's book. I just wish it would have come out like it was supposed to. A casual glance at the cover would have revealed that the print was off.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Unearthed Arcana (1e)
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The Nightmare Lands (2e)
by John M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2021 20:30:29

An excellent soft-cover reprint of the boxed set for AD&D Ravenloft. It covers the entire cosmology of the Nightmare Lands, from it's previous existence as a physically accessible portion of the Core to its current position as something separate from the Waking World (for the most part). The introducting of the different members of the Nightmare Court through Dr. Ilhousen through prose and the exploration of the domain is thorough and entertaining, the new monsters added to Ravenloft lore are fun to play with, and the adventure contained within is above average for the boxed set adventures that were released at the time. A very pleasant addition to any Ravenloft collection!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Nightmare Lands (2e)
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OD&D Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes (0e)
by eric l. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/14/2021 17:53:23

printed over sized was going to keep in box with other book but is to large.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
OD&D Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes (0e)
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TM4: The City of Waterdeep Trail Map (2e)
by Ron S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2021 19:34:28

When I got this, it is so small that it is useless to use!



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
TM4: The City of Waterdeep Trail Map (2e)
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Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
by Nina V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2021 20:57:03

The printed version I received was beautiful. The print extends all to the edges, so no white borders here. The two maps are also well formated, although had to be small to fit the pages. A folded map would have been great.

It is rich, high quality and consistent art throughout the book.

The PDF is not completely printerfriendly, but not too bad either.

Some of its structuring is bit strange, some of it comes from it being 4e I suppose, but it does have a lot of improvements to the previous two Dark Sun Campaign Settings. Combined with the Dark Sun Creature Catalog is it very solid, both for the rules and to add inspiration.

It is a more liberal setting when it comes to races than previous, with tieflings, flesh-eating minotaurs, saurians/lizzardhumanoids (maybe as a substitute to the Pterrans that was introduced late in the 2nd edition era?) and things like that. It also got some changes to the dragonborn/dray origin-story, maybe to make the race more accessible? I think that some of it makes the world richer, but I won't use all of it myself.

The monetary system seems to be reverted to more mainstream dnd. The monetary system and some of the creatures stats do I change to make more sense and for consistency.

I particularly like the sections on the cities that are very systematic and less superficial than usual.

The parts on how to create encounters, challenges and adventures do I also find inspiring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
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