Dungeons & Delvers Review (by Cross Planes)

Mark Craddock from the blog Cross Planes posted a very positive review of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book, but I didn't see it until about a week later while checking out another post he did on a bone salamander monster statblock (also for Black Book).

He hits all the major points, and doesn't say anything wrong or misleading, but there were some things I wanted to clarify:

Yes, technically it started as a 4th Edition hack, but I have to stress (again) for those that loathe 4th Edition with the fury of a thousands suns, that aside from monsters having levels and the skill list there really isn't anything noticeably 4th Edition about it.

And to clarify about monsters having levels, it's basically Hit Dice from previous editions, and not an indicator of what the party "should" be fighting at a given point in time (there's not even a Challenge Rating value).

For example, when I ran Enlil-zi-Shagal's Sky Tomb, the 1st-level party took on a level 6 or 7 harpy and still won, partially due to clever tactics (they ambushed her). She didn't have "6th-level monster AC", because there isn't any such thing. I think it was just 12 because only her Dexterity mattered. In 4th Edition her AC would have been something like 22, mostly due to her level.

Hell, the young red dragon is level 7 (and I think the most badass monster in the core book) but its AC is only 13!

So, again, even of you utterly despise 4th Edition I would still give this a look. I don't think Mark's wrong in his OSR label. Not that I really know what definitely counts as OSR, but he's not the first person to describe it as such, and honestly it feels more like a simplified 5th Edition, though someone said it reminded him of Rules Cyclopedia.

The core PDF is 141 pages, but it comes with eight of these free "zine" PDFs that includes more races (including a few racial classes and some more bizarre alien races), classes, talents, magic items, high tech gear, monsters, ups the level cap to 20, etc, and we keep adding more as we go.

This isn't Mark's fault though as I only sent him the core book, Appendix D (which compiles most of the first six PDF zines), and issues 7 and 8 of the zines. I didn't think about the fact that the level 20 stuff was in issue 4 or 5!

There is a bonus economy, with everyone getting +1 to this or that every 5 levels (because it seemed like a good rate to me), but things aren't designed the way 4th Edition was, where at a given level you were expected to have a bonus or value of a certain amount.

So, for example, and I'm really not trying to rag on it, but in 4th Edition monsters had attack bonuses, Armor Class, and Defenses mostly based on their level, so when you were 1st-level you were "supposed" to have an attack bonus of I think at least +5, so that way you'd have about a 50:50 chance of hitting them.

As you leveled up, you got a steady +1 bonus every other level, and monster attack bonuses, AC, Defenses, etc also scaled with their level, so that plus feats that gave you static bonuses and magic items meant that, if you were playing by the book, it was a pretty even match most of the time. Specific types of monsters were also supposed to scale with the party, so at 1st-level you'd fight level 1 goblins, and at 10th-level you'd fight level 10 goblins.

Dungeons & Delvers doesn't work that way. Overall the numbers are a lot lower, so at 1st-level you can fight boggarts, and they can be dangerous, but even at 5th- or 10th-level you can still run into a big gang of boggarts and they'll be a threat. Not as much of a threat, because you'll probably have better armor and more WP and VP, but they'll be able to hit you without needing to pile on more levels.

Going back to that 7th-level red dragon with an AC of 13: sure, a 1st-level fighter will hit it about half the time, but you're getting a good chunk of damage shaved off, and it'll probably kill you in one round. I do think it's possible for a good-sized 1st-level party, with some hirelings, and enough planning and strategy to take it out, or at least drive it off.

One thing that stood out to me was this part:

"The art is far better than you typically find in most projects from smaller publisher and it's presence and mood strengthens the project."

It's nice to know that he really likes the art, and I'm inclined to agree.

I don't want to point fingers or dredge up old shit, but there's a bunch of indie projects I've seen with sparse and/or, well...let's just say art that could be better. Usually both, and in some cases none at all. I'm not just talking about small personal projects, but even stuff that's raked in thousands, sometimes tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars off of Kickstarter.

It's something that I find both disappointing and confusing, because Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book wasn't crowdfunded. It was just the hard, dedicated work of Melissa, myself, and a bunch of awesome, patient playtesters over the course of a year or two, most of which went into playtesting, design, more playtesting, more design, and writing: the art was actually the shortest part of the whole ordeal!

Not really review-related, Melissa and I are working on Red Book, which is basically Black Book plus Appnedix D, plus a whole bunch of completely new stuff. Think of Black Book as the basic, entry-level game, while Red Book is going to be more like Rules Cyclopedia, just with way more art, and available in B&W and full-color.

We'll also be sending out discount links to everyone that purchased Black Book and/or Appendix D, so you won't pay anything extra. Beyond more content, we're also tweaking, adding, and removing rules. So if you have any suggestions, criticisms, or feedback, hit us up on G+, Facebook, or just email us (contact info is in the PDF). Doesn't have to be public if you don't want it to be.

One thing in particular: Mark mentioned that the GM chapter was "short, but useful". I don't take it as a bad thing, but we'd love to know what others thought, specifically whether it was useful enough, was there a part you'd like us to elaborate on, and/or was there (very likely) something we missed you'd like us to address.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

If you want more adventures, we just released Escape From the Flesh Catacombs: a bunch of 0-level characters need to escape from the catacomb-lair of a gorgon that was slain, causing everything she's petrified to revert to flesh and rise as undead.

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Apothecary, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

No comments

Powered by Blogger.