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FOR8 Pages from the Mages (2e)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/30/2020 13:04:34

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/review-pages-from-mages.html and is a followup to the post here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/this-old-dragon-retrospective-pages.html

The Pages from the Mages feature of Dragon Magazine was one of my favorite features and I looked forward to seeing what new spells Ed Greenwood would relay from the great sage Elminster. I was very pleased when I saw that the entire collection was pulled together into a single tome. The original Pages from the Mages spaned roughly 10 years from 1982 to 1992 and both editions of AD&D. For this review, I am considering both the original print version sold by TSR and the PDF version sold through DriveThruRPG. Presently there is no Print on Demand option.

Pages from the Mages

The book is 128 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art with full color, full-page art. Designed for the AD&D 2nd Edition game. The PDF sells for $9.99 on DriveThruRPG. The softcover book originally sold for $15.00 in 1995.

This book covers some 40 or so unique spell books from various spellcasters from the Forgotten Realms. Some of these spellcasters are well known such as Elminster and others less so or at least nearly mythic in the Realms. This is one of the book's greatest strengths. While this could have been just a collection of books with known spells, it is the stories and the myths behind the books that make this more.

While many of the spells found within these books are fairly well known, there are plenty of brand new and unique spells. This is what attracted me to the original Dragon magazine series. Within these pages, there are 180 or so "new" spells. I say new in quotes because most, if not all, these spells appeared first in the pages of Dragon magazine and then again in the pages of the hardcover Forgotten Realms Adventures for 2nd Edition.

Additionally, there are a number of new magic items and even a couple of new creatures.

The true value for me, as a DM and a player, is to provide these new spell books as potential treasure items or quest items. Even saying the name of some of these books, like Aubayreer's Workbook, is enough to get my creative juices flowing. Where is it? Where has it been? What other secrets does it contain?

I often refer to a product as punching above its weight class. This is one of those books. While overtly designed for the 2nd Edition game there is nothing here that can't be used with any version of the D&D game, from Basic all the way to 5th edition with only the slightest bit of editing needed.

While I have a print copy and the PDF, a Print on Demand version would be fantastic.

A complete list of the spells, spellbook, creatures and characters in this book can be found on the Forgotten Realms wiki, https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Pages_from_the_Mages



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FOR8 Pages from the Mages (2e)
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Player's Secrets of Stjordvik (2e)
by Andrew B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2020 11:34:21

Like all of the "Player's Secrets..." books from the Birthright setting, this is a great resource. These books cover in fairly great detail the politics, geography, economy, etc. of a given nation. They also provide a 'who's who' in the nation. And while some of these provide information on the default ruler of the nation, these books are primarily designed with the understanding that a player is running the nation. Basically, "The nation is yours...now hold onto it."

In the case of Stjordvik, it is one of the more 'good-aligned' Rjurik nations (think Norse), which has a strong economy, trading beyond their regional borders. That said, it has enough enemies that you won't feel too secure.

While you can run this with any 2nd ed. D&D setting, it is best used in conjunction with the Birthright Campaign Setting, as well as the regional source box: The Rjurik Highlands.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Secrets of Stjordvik (2e)
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Havens of the Great Bay (2e)
by Andrew B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2020 10:53:49

If you play 2nd edition D&D and want a new world to explore, or just want a great campaign setting, you can't go wrong with Birthright. And Havens of the Great Bay provides players with a more 'Renaissance'-like region where players can really make their mark. Whether sailing the seas, climbing every mountain, or delving into lush valleys, this set provides information on one of the five main regions of Cerilia, and offers overviews of these nations as well as a rich selection of allies and enemies. Just watch out for the Kraken.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Havens of the Great Bay (2e)
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Caves of Shadow (3.0)
by Jay G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2020 21:39:45

Caves Of Shadow is a GREAT introduction to D&D.

It's basically written as a stripped down version of D&D 3.0 (which actually makes it easier to adapt to 5e than a more rules intense 3.0 scenario). Although the adventure is quite short happening all in one location and only having seven encounter areas having an NPC, a few mysterious objects to explore, and a significant final fight gives the feel of a 'real' D&D game.

My two criticisms of the adventure both come from it's overall uninteresting visual presentation. Given how small the map is it looks like it could have been laid out over the two center pages and then been pulled out and used with counters or miniatures. The second issue is that the addition of a few small pieces of art (a door, a rat, the old man, an ogre) would have really imersed the reader/DM more in the adventure.

Overall I think Caves Of Shadow is one of the best introductory adventures for any edition of D&D both for players and for DMs. And for $0 it's certain good value :)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Caves of Shadow (3.0)
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Into the Darkness (3.0)
by Jay G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2020 21:19:51

Calling "Into The Darkness" an adventure is a bit overstating it.

It's basically a single encounter meant to walk new players through a basic encounter. The best part of Into The Darkness is the DM Tipsheet meant to help a DM learn how to play monsters.

Into The Darkness is not objectively bad or poorly written, it's just a bit flat. The focus here is clearly on the mechanical aspects of the encounter with no flavour or colour given that would honestly impart the more engaging elements of an RPG.

For $0 if you need something quick to drop in it's not bad, but as an introduction for new players it really doesn't do a great job of showcasing D&D in it's best light.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Darkness (3.0)
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DDEX2-01 City of Danger (5e)
by Francis B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2020 21:18:14

Format is of 5 mini-adventures designed to introduce the themes of season 2 (Elemental Evil, intrigue, deception). The adventures are tied together through connections to an ongoing noblewoman’s party at which the adventurers are hired to work. Parties of this type are a recurring theme in the DDEX2 adventures, and this one works well enough, especially if the DM makes use of the noble’s steward Saul to move things along. In reading through these, I found some stronger than others, and in my games focused on DMing Hatred Like Clawed Wind and Envy Like Crushing Earth, for which I’ve put details below.

Hatred Like Clawed Wind - Works very well as a straight-forward combat focused adventure. The warding on the trap doors is a nice touch as a slight puzzle for the players.

Envy Like Crushing Earth - To strengthen the hook here, I like to have Saul and the innkeeper (Chroomeq) approach the players to inform them that Chroomeq’s Inn is providing food and drink for the party - and that with the sabotage, the party is at risk of running out! I find this provides some urgency and humor to an otherwise mild hook. Once at the tavern, I’ve found that the players really like playing up the investigative part a bit, and I’d let them plan out various plans to watch for vandals around the premises, only to be surprised by the noises from the basement. I did find that getting the players to follow the gnome is a little hard - having her call up that she needs help was one method that worked to motivate the players a bit.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX2-01 City of Danger (5e)
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Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
by John R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2020 13:00:11

The softcover printed version is really nice, good square binding, glossy color cover, good interior color.

My only gripe is that it is a thick book, and the pages are printed too far into the crack in the middle of the binding. To read it comfortably, I will eventually crack and crease the nice square binding. It's a small quibble, and one many people will overlook, but some of us Book People are a little crazy.

It looks like the printing could be shifted 1/8 of an inch toward the outer edge without too much crowding. This isn't a lot, but it could help.

Otherwise, it is well made, and worth the purchase.

I give it a 4.5 / 5, rounded up because checkboxes.

And cut-and-pasting from a review from Brent C. "My only hope is that other box sets will recieve print-on-demand hardcover versions (coughPlanescapecough)" I can't say that loud enough.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
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T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
by Cheri G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2020 08:39:54

PoD copy arrived and is amazing. The printing and images are crisp and the blacks are very deep. The scan has been cleaned up quite a bit, and the cover is really well done. My copy does have 'The Temple of Elemental Evil' printed along the spine as well. All of the maps are reproduced at the end of the book, as is the case with all PoD reprints Ive ordered. All of the maps (besides Hommlet) were one page maps to begin with, so its no big deal. Hommlet is spread across 2 pages, though thats not really a huge deal either as you can print the map out beforehand and piece the 2 pages together relatively easily if you purchase the pdf along with the PoD. The only thing that I see that is incorrect with this copy (and it was mentioned earlier) is that pages 115 & 116 are flip flopped; i.e. 116 with no page number is just before 115 which has a page number and goes on from there correctly to 117 and on through the rest of the book. Overall, thats not enough for me to take much of the overall rating, though truth be told this would be a 4.9 out of 5 for me. The pages being flipped like that is really no big deal at all.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (1e)
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Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod
by patrick m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/25/2020 18:25:41

It is a good way to start children off to D&D. Great because it can help keep those with short spans of interests a way to play.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod
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Player's Secrets of Endier (2e)
by Andrew B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/25/2020 09:12:38

If you are a fan of the Birthright setting, or just interested in your characters managing a small domain, this is the book for you. Although it works best within the Birthright setting as intended, neighboring politics and bloodline concerns can be either ignored or altered to fit most campaign settings. Also includes the answer to Endier's riddle and more information on the Spiderfell.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Secrets of Endier (2e)
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S1 Tomb of Horrors (1e)
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/24/2020 09:15:59

The POD looks beautiful! I don't mind the placement of maps and illustrations within the book. The only gripe I have (minor one), the first 5 or six pages show the scan of the pages slightly crooked, because of this text continues to the very edge of the paper. I verified that nothing was cut off though. Overall, for the price and quality I recommend it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
S1 Tomb of Horrors (1e)
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DLC2: Dragonlance Classics Volume II (2e)
by Jay G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/24/2020 00:18:43

First up this was a great crisp scan and other than one table on page 65 I found the whole thing to be crystal clear.

The adventures themselves still feel very much 'on rails' to keep them progressing inline with the novels but there does seem to be a bit more exploration and they feel less on rails than the advntures presented in DLC1.

Overall I enjoyed this collection more than the first and defintely think it's a worthy addition to the collection of anyone gathering D&D material from the old TSR era, but having said that I think it has far more value as a book to be read, rather than a series of adventures to be run.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DLC2: Dragonlance Classics Volume II (2e)
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Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
by Jesse N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2020 14:49:33

If your Pathfinder 1e/D&D 3.5 group are complaining that the campaign is too easy and/or simple, this campaign-tier module is more then enough to rip off those training-wheels and give the player group what they asked for and then some.

It's an absolute tragedy that this isn't Print-On-Demand much like it's Advanced 1e predecessor, hince why I'm giving it 4 stars



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
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Red Hand of Doom (3e)
by Jesse N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2020 14:38:56

This is a good mid-tier adventure filled with a good variety of objectives and a 45-day timer keeps the party from getting lazy, providing a good way to give an epic finale module for an entry level campaign.

As for why I giving it a an average score is because this isn't print-on-demand. My printer could't handle printing this PDF (many blocks of texts were blurred out) so I had to go out of my to go to a printshop and get it printed into a book for nearly 7.5x the price for the PDF.

If you're playing out of your laptop, I can 100% recommend this but if you're looking to get this printed off into a book, I'd wait for this to go print-on-demand or put aside some real chump change and get it done at a print shop.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Red Hand of Doom (3e)
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The Goblin's Lair (Basic)
by Jesse N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2020 14:15:53

PRO: If you're in the market for 2 mini modules that revolves around goblin extermintion this is your buy

CON: Despite what the discription says (i.e. 3 mini modules), it's missing the "Red Hand Trail", the miniature-friendly maps are segmented in multiple parts in a random order, making them a pain in the arse to assemble using editing software and the scans on the punchout 2D miniatures are of shoddy quality.

Until the missing module is added, some quality control is implimented on the scans and those maps are made whole again, I can't recommend getting this for the $5 pricetag



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Goblin's Lair (Basic)
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