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Author Topic: Dreadmire  (Read 1093 times)


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« on: October 30, 2006, 11:31:10 PM »

Chapter 1: The map region covers over 700,000 sq miles of terrain of which the Dreadmire swamp covers about a third. The chapter covers an overview of the formation of the swamp and the environments that feed the swamp itself that reads much like a text book in tone and presentation. This in turn turns in to a brief overview of the world itself.

The next three sections are important first for there information and second as the encounter tables are keyed to each. The sections cover areas of the swamp called The Thicket, The Backswamp and the Perdition. These describe the three basic zones of the swamp from the edge to its heart, they are again textbook descriptions covering the overall feel of the environment from basic encounters to the level of inherent evil present as one travels deeper in to the swamp itself till one comes to its heart.

The problem with the three mentioned sections is the map has no reference of them and there is no way to translate there presence with the rest of the information given. This is a problem because the encounter tables included in this section require the DM to know where the party is at any given time as they travel the swamp itself. It's as if the information was from another map badly translated to the campaign map given in the book. The Auther may consider to modify the campaign map with an overlay that shows these regions for reference, this would increase the utility of the information and the encounter tables. Travel rates are specific to each region based on a flat travel rate per day but allow the usage of a Bateau boat that travels based on a 16 hour day. This section has less utility as it does not use any of the overland movement conventions based on the SRD itself nor does it offer a Survival roll DC for getting lost.

There is a brief description that sets up the haunted swamp concept but again is hard to tie in to the overall map. Also the size of the overall area lessens this material greatly, why worry about a haunted swamp when you are over 500 miles away.

The section rounds out with an encounter table keyed to the basic four regions. It uses a table to first determine the type of encounter then has the DM roll on a specific table to determine what has been found. Characters can stumble across a random disease, and active terrain feature or some form of creature. The tables are not well balanced versus the regions and CRs and would make life short for any low level character wondering about. Also the utility of the table is much reduced as it was not keyed to the printed regions on the map but to the Thicket, Backswamp and Perdition and rounded out by the fourth region Inhabited.

There are some good ideas in this chapter and much work for the DM to make it workable, the clear text helps to guide the DM and makes it easier to present to the players, and this combined with some of the reference material in the back make describing the complex environment much easier. The down side much of the game effects are under described and require the Dm to both define and develop as she may see fit.

Chapter 2 This section perks up quite a bit and brings out the value of the product. The section covers people and places and works to bring the setting alive as far as to what everybody is up to. Combined with the map this is where the DM can start planning her adventures or develop her own place in the swamp.

The first section is a listing of the regional factions, here we have an overview of the people, where they live, and how they interact with each other and in most cases an authority figure that runs the show. In this case the information is clear and focuses on the high points of each culture and there relationship to the swamp. This is where the DM is expected to develop his own ideas from the information given. The cultures run from the sophisticated to the barbaric, noble to black heart evil. Also the horror swamp subplot can be found throughout the text creating a reason that such races are just so and giving the DM a much needed list of villains and subplots.

The second section gives us the Faiths and Deities. As the above civilizations we have a brief description along with an authority figure. Many adventure hooks present themselves along with a quest to return a chained god to power. These are left to the DM as to what she may or may not need at any given time. The Gods cover the full range of influences and are focused on the local environment and cultures. One God, Marais, features in the myth of the swamps creation and is mentioned in the first chapter, maintaining an occult feel to the environment.

The third section covers smaller communities. The number of these communities is quite small versus the overall size of the map but do serve as an example as to how these communities function in the setting. The format is per the DMG and includes all information based on population levels and authority figures. The largest section is the thorp Iota that includes a detailed description of the Live Bait tavern, though no maps are given. Iota also provides a jumping off point for local adventures as needed by the DM. They also have a section that shows the love of the author for his Bayou Halflings were we look at a section of there culture, special locations, holidays and manners of speech. The Bayou Halflings also pop up all over the above descriptions and are one of the prominent cultural groups.

The last section covers the mysteries of the swamp, keyed locations that add mysteries and adventure ideas to the landscape. Again these are short descriptions that require DM development. Some locations are part of the overall haunted swamp plot and can be used for quests that center upon that story element.

Other than the inclusion of a new player skill, wave-slide, and the standard information for the Gods there is no real character information given here nor are there any instructions on how to create player characters out of the given races. Other than the new classes and prestige classes found later in the book there is no listing of feats as well. Some of the specific races found in this book like the Alligataur have no player character info given other than they can advance in character levels. The Dm will have to use the techniques given in Savage Species to develop these as a player character race.

The section also includes no maps of the various locations but this is not uncommon for this type of product. The presentation is mostly text with a light scattering of pictures; there is a lot of information here to digest.

Chapter 3: Here we find three adventures that take place within the swamp and underworld environments. He we also find a brief description of how the adventures are designed using the following format. Role playing, avoidance, programmed and EL for combat encounters.

The first adventure is the Great Bayou Halfling Boat Race. Hear the PCs are roped in to crewing a Goelette (swamp boat) for a Halfling called Arseneaux Hammertow. The adventure is supposed to be used to introduce the players to the swamp realm through a series of encounters. There is no map for this adventure, instead using a series of programmed events to move the game forward. The race takes the characters through 300 miles of terrain and should take the party a good three weeks to accomplish, but none of this is noted or experienced in the adventure. Also this adventure is noted as being one for beginning levels but many of the encounters will kill a low level party of one to three levels. Another caution is the constant usage of the plot hammer. Many encounters have predetermined results, where the presence of the characters is not taken in to account. Any Dm must carefully read through the adventure before running it to determine if it fits his style.

The Bog of the Fungus Demon and the Secrets of the Sinking Citadel are both site based adventures. As they are similar I will review them both here. Both these adventures cleave to a first edition feel and are more balanced than the first adventure. The adventures introduce many of the new creatures in the monster chapter. The DM again is reminded to read through each adventure to determine if it fits his style of play and make any changes necessary. Here the author stops the plot hammering allowing the party to explore each environment. Also all necessary maps are included to play. The last two adventures are a good read.

The product is confused as to what it thinks it is; a campaign source book or an environment book. It's too weak on both counts. It lacks terrain rules for the swamp such as getting lost or detailed descriptions on how to run combat or navigate the hazards.

The source book side is weak and underdeveloped; the horror story too scattered in parts and left to the DM to make it work. The player's information includes new pc classes that are too strong for regular play but offers no updates to skills for the environment or feats. There is no information on new character races. The spells are workable and fit the environment; the magic items are short listed and not organized by type but are functional, a few though are not priced well for effect are not well balanced and again require the DM to review.

The creatures section does add new monsters to the mix including a few "inspired" by other D20 source books. Mixed in with this are add-ons to existing MM creatures, hazards and benign encounters, this concept helps to pad the count to 264. The add ones are usualy a single paragraph that adds some new ability to an existing monster, in many cases ignoring both the impact on the creature itself or as to the effect it has on the game.

The monster recipe suffers from the same problem the author has with the rest of the book, if it was hard to figure out it must be the DMs problem. as a quote from the book for one of the recipes we find this entry, " Hit Dice, Speed, AC, Attacks, Damage, Space/reach, Saves, Treasure: May decrease or increase based on the new size, shape, carapace, or special qualities or attack forms. There is no set amount or formula, although you should keep play balance in mind." Here we see how the DM and not the author needs to figure out how this works, templates from other sources work much better and provide better direction than this.

The reference section is material culled from different sources but in no way presented as gamming material. Its just lists with minor definitions, information available and copied from public sources.



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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2006, 11:16:24 AM »
Too bad it's not better done. The actual concept (big spooky swamp full of disease, demons, critters) sounds really cool.


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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2006, 11:25:48 AM »
nice review. Thanks for posting it.:D

To bad, sounds like a good idea but in the end it was developed poorly.