Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Weekend R&R: Barrowmaze II
I took a good look at the project and, after much consideration, I decided to back it not knowing exactly how the project would look save for the few samples of very excellent artwork previewed. I'll be honest and just say that half the reason I backed the project was because of the illustrations I saw. Now, for the completely uninitiated, Barrowmaze II is the second part of a two-part mega-dungeon campaign. Some people may prefer to think of it as a higher level expansion to Barrowmaze. However, having gone through the material in Barrowmaze II, it would be a relatively easy affair to use either one part or the other based on the needs of one's campaign.
In other words, you don't need part I to enjoy part II or vice versa.
The book itself (I'm using the PDF at the moment) can be roughly broken up in three sections. The first part details basic history, design notes, and critical information detailing the sorts of things one is to encounter when exploring the campaign. The second section is really the adventure material itself and various areas are detailed along with challenges, encounters, and maps. Finally, the third section is like a huge appendix -- new items, magic, and monsters. You will also find information on two of the important personalities the party may end up dealing with (if they live long enough) as well as the artifact at the heart of the problem. The book also provides some pre-gens, character sheets. and perhaps most importantly, a series of random tables to enhance the dungeon experience for you and your players. The latter also includes a Barrow Mound Random Crypt Generator!
The material itself is varied and fun and, Barrowmaze almost became my pick for the mega-campaign I am starting up very soon. For those who follow, it is Rappan Athuk that won out however, I'm sure I will be pulling some great stuff in these pages to complement the Rappan Athuk campaign. Frankly, the reason why I chose Rappan Athuk is simply because it seems a bit more 'compartmentalized' which I feel is necessary given the players I have and the campaign I wanted to run. I do feel that Barrowmaze is more 'concise' and might be a better choice given different tastes and circumstances.
Now, with some of these projects, I tend to worry a bit about layout and presentation. These sort of things are not problems which are exclusively related to indie projects by any means but smaller scale projects do tend to have more issues with them. I am very pleased to say that Barrowmaze II is very well put together and outshines some 'professional' products out there. Excessive 'whitespace' can be a problem with projects but, there is enough art and small maps throughout the book that this is just not an issue here. Given the clean and clear layout, it is obvious that art was not just added in after the fact but placement was considered to maximize each page. Grey Gillespie should be congratulated for what is a very sleek presentation. This book comes to over 140 pages which further complements the first book which was around 80 pages.
Overall, Barrowmaze is a solid offering but, like any campaign -- much of the success will lie in the person who is running it. It's certainly nice and it would be a mistake to dismiss it without taking a good look at it first. At half the page count of Rappan Athuk, it has just as much substance and, both parts combine provide over 500 rooms and areas to explore. Combine elements of the Barrowmaze and Rappan Athuk together and you have a fantastic campaign that will go one for years!