Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary

Adventures Dark and Deep is Joseph Bloch’s thought experiment made real: “What if Gary Gygax had been allowed to go through with his plans for a second edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game?’

The result is an AD&D variant vastly superior to the original: it’s better written, has better art, and has more options for players to try out. The game is a magnificent achievement, and raises the bar for OSR products. The game’s Players Manual and the Game Masters Toolkit are both great, but the best book, and also the one easiest usable with other OSR games, is the Bestiary.

It’s 457 pages hold over 900, monsters, animals, and other creatures. It includes all creatures from the SRD, a great number of monsters from other OGL sources like the Complete Tome of Horrors, and some original creatures as well. So we have seen most of these monsters before in other sources.  The original creatures are mostly new expressions of old ideas that don’t have an OGL version yet (for example, the Fairy Courts).

So what makes this book so good? It has everything. It’s got all the basics covered, and a lot of the extras as well. For the first time, everything’s in one book. If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to reference multiple monster books and magazine issues to stock a dungeon. As a result most of the monsters encountered in my campaigns were from the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual, formerly my go-to monster book.

Is there something I don’t like about the book?

Some of the art is great, but some of the art relies too much on tracing it’s reference, instead of referencing it. What’s worst, the design of the book is very basic. Some of the art doesn’t get the space it needs and falls a bit cramped, other pieces are printed too large and falls a bit flat. Tellingly, there’s no designer or art director credited. However, I acknowledge the achievement of having that much art in a small OSR publication.

The cover of my copy is a bit blurred, and some of the black-and-white art inside is a bit pixelated, making me think the printer worked from low resolution images. My copies of the Players Manual and the Game Masters Toolkit do not have these flaws.

All-in-all, the Bestiary is the best monster book currently available for any system. If you play any old school variant of D&D, you should check it out. If you play AD&D, you should take a look at the rest of the Adventures Dark and Deep rules as well.

Morale

Here’s a small issue I came upon when using the Bestiary for an B/X module. In the Bestiary, Morale is given as an adjustment on morale checks , which in Adventures Dark and Deep are rolled on 1d20. This is an improvement over AD&D’s percentile system, but it makes it harder to use with B/X, which uses 2d6, or 2nd Edition AD&D, which uses 2d10. So I made a conversion chart:
Morale Conversion
ADD
AD&D
2nd Edition
BX or BECMI
-10
0%
Unreliable (2)
2
-9
5%
Unreliable (2-4)
2-3
-8
10%
Unsteady (5)
3
-7
15%
Unsteady (6)
4
-6
20%
Unsteady (7)
4
-5
25%
Average (8)
5
-4
30%
Average (8)
5
-3
35%
Average (9)
6
-2
40%
Average (9)
6
-1
45%
Average (10)
6
0
50%
Steady (11)
7
+1
55%
Steady (11)
7
+2
60%
Steady (12)
7
+3
65%
Steady (12)
7
+4
70%
Elite (13)
8
+5
75%
Elite (13)
8
+6
80%
Elite (14)
8
+7
85%
Champion (15)
9
+8
90%
Champion  (16)
10
+9
95%
Fanatic (17-18)
10-11
+10
100%
Fearless (19-20)
11-12


3 comments:

  1. This is my new favorite monster book as well. It's so well done. Between this and the S&W Monstrosities, I can't imagine every needing any other monster book, ever. I would like to have Attack rating listed in the stat block, to save some table cross referencing, and I'm not sure if I love or hate the fact that the monsters are segregated by locale. A couple times I've been looking for a monster and couldn't find it because I didn't know its origin. Other times I've need monsters of certain origin and it was nice to have them segregated.

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    Replies
    1. I think I would have prefered to have normal animals seperated from the monsters. Now it seems more than half the wilderness, dungeon and water creatures are animals or giant versions thereof. I really like having the planar monsters segregated, though.

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  2. a great number of monsters from other OGL sources

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