Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Product Review – Official Dungeons & Dragons Soundtrack

April 17, 2010

Okay, so. No con wrapup, as I decided against it. If I ever do another gaming con, I probably will. I mean, Ubercon’s near where I live, maybe I can hit that? Anyway, I figure I owe you all a post, so here we go: Something that’s been on my mind (and my iPod) for months now…

No, I figured I’d cover one of my acquisitions at Gencon last year: Midnight Syndicate’s Official Dungeons & Dragons Soundtrack.

Now, I’ll tell you flat out: I’m not really qualified to review music. What I know about music, you could probably fit on a postcard. But, as the old saying goes, I know what I like.

And I like this album a lot.

Released in 2003- So long ago that the liner actually makes reference to the iconic characters!- This “soundtrack” is a collection of orchestral music, intended for use as mood music for Dungeons & Dragons games. This, in turn, is because Midnight Syndicate is a group whose bread and butter is soundtracks, though mostly for Gothic horror settings. Indeed, this is really their only fantasy-styled album. So, you might be asking yourself, “How does a group that gets saddled with the unique honor of being the word’s first “Halloween Band” take to doing music for a non-horror setting?”

The answer? Pretty damn well, actually. Their Gothic roots show in their instrument choices, favoring tense string instruments, opressive-sounding percussions, and choral stylings that, really, remind me a lot of Out of the Darkness, another album by Midnight Syndicate.

Overall, the album has a very mysterious and weird feel to it, the tones and arrangements used almost telling a story on their own, and definitely evoking images as you listen. “Descent into the Darkness” is a deeply toned and gloomy theme, calling forth the impression of entering a deep cave or mine, “”Skirmish” has an almost chaotic and unpredictable feel as it builds, and “Lair of the Great Wyrm,” “Army of the Dead” and “Final Confrontation” all evoke the feelings of dread and trepidation you might expect from facing down foes of epic caliber. “Soundtracks for the imagination,” indeed.

I’ve yet to play this for my group, but I really ought. I imagine it would make for good background music.

And the main reason I bring it up is, well… It’s a licenced album, and it was made some seven years ago now. Sooner or later, the rights are probably going to revert to Wizards of the Coast, and unless they opt to renew, this album will eventually become harder and harder to find. Now, I know that other means exist, but since I’ve made it my mission at this blog to promote mostly legitimate means of procurement, I will simply say that if you want a physical copy of this- and if you’re a D&D player, you probably do- You should act soon.

As I said, I may not know music, but I know what I like. And I definitely like this.


Product Review – Beyond Countless Doorways

March 28, 2010

First, I apologise for the lack of updates. I suppose I shouldn’t, as I am not punching a clock, but to my readers- and I know I have a few, my hit counter goes up a little every day- I feel I owe it. Also I do feel I owe you a post or two before I go off to Anime Boston on Thursday.

So let’s start with this: A product from some six years ago that was written under OGL, and one I thought I would never own myself: Beyond Countless Doorways.

Printed by Malhavoc Press, it was hyped as the “Planescape reunion,” as it has writing credits such names as Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur, Colin McComb and Ray Vallese, four names that were, at one point, synonymous with Planescape and planar adventure as well.

… And anyone who’s read my Underdark review probably already knows why I didn’t buy this previously: The golden age of TSR’s  “many buckets” strategy, the one that gave rise to settings like Planescape? Yeah, that’s when I wasn’t buying books. So, these names? They mean almost nothing to me. Sure, later, I would learn about Baur, who helped create many of my favorite elements of Dungeons & Dragons, and Cook, whose retirement from RPG writing I took in with some dismay.

But at the time this book was released, I had minimal interest in it, mostly because I’m pretty sure it launched at $40 USD. Now, that’s hardcover, and it’s a damn beast at 226 pages, but it was a book I wasn’t overly interested in.

So, why’d I pick it up now? Because RPGNow was having a sale (How do PDFs go on sale, anyway…?), and this thing, which normally sells at $30, was priced at $10. And like I said of Kill or be Killed, you price something right and I’ll buy just about anything out of sheer morbid curiosity.

As far as initial reactions go, I was probably wrong to ignore this book at the time of its release. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

Beyond Countless Doorways was the closest anyone was ever going to see to a true 3e Planescape source book, and, indeed, Doorways is Planescape in almost everything except name. It even has a “hub” of sorts called The Nexus, a plane whose main purpose is to link to other planes, in the vein of Sigil, City of Doors. The purpose of the book is to provide numerous alternate planes of existance for Dungeon Masters to send their characters to their deaths on thrill their players with exotic locales, in the form of the “Countless Doorways” cosmetology. Under this school of thought, there are literally countless worlds in existence, a thought indeed hinted upon in Dungeons & Dragons books throughout the game’s history, but never, to my knowledge, has it been fully explored.

Until now? Doorways details some twenty new planes, any one of which could be used for weeks or months of adventure. But let’s be fair: They’re weird as hell. How weird are we talking? The book opens on the description of a world where the sun has died and become a frozen, crystalline plane where the very memory of light is fading. Okay, that’s not too bad. What’s next? A realm where angels go to die, a plane of eternal regret and lament. Hm, interesting idea. What else? There’s an earth elemental plane made almost entirely out of precious materials where mining is forbidden, another world that’s patterned very strongly on the Asian Hells, another where reptiles and dinosaurs tower over pigmy humanoid races, and yet another which is almost nothing but a purple void with bizarre green vines stretching off into infinity, where harming others physically is nearly impossible, as is escaping the damn thing. And I’m only glossing over half the entries in the book, ignoring the other chapters and the sidebars on concordant planes listed in each chapter, describing worlds that may well be even stranger than the ones in the book.

Like I said, it’s weird.

But that’s actually a good thing. See, Doorways is the kind of wierd that’s just strange enough to be exotic, but not so strange as to be incomprehensible. It provides alternatives to the planes in D&D’s Great Wheel (and whatever the hell they’re calling 4e’s mess of a cosmetology) that are just familiar enough to be understood, but so different as to be unique. There’s enough for a few sessions of bizarre exploration, or a whole campaign of planes hopping fun.

Yes, I liked it, yes, I think it’s a good book, and it’s actually the first I’m reviewing on this site that fits in to one of my core gaming philosophies: “Good ideas transcend games.”

Admitted, it’s not a game that’s being transcended here, but an edition: This was written for 3rd Edition, it uses OGL rules, but the information is so packed with “fluff” that there’s no reason you couldn’t make it work in 4th Edition. Indeed, the original version of that line was “Good ideas transcend systems,” one I was using to quiet (not so much dismiss, as I do not make a habit of dismissing concerns) complaints about 4th edition “obsoleting” people’s collections of books. Same complaint 2nd Edition got, but the real crux of the matter here is, the writing in 3e? So much better. So much more fluff, so much less crunch, that it was useable, even if the rules didn’t work anymore.

And hell, if you’re still running 3rd Edition, and you use alternate planes, and you somehow don’t own this book? Consider buying it. Also, considering it’s a OGL product, it probably is compatible with Pathfinder, though I couldn’t tell you if it meshes with that game’s cosmetology… Or if that’s even very important a caveat. Given the fact that it was said that nothing in the 4e cosmetology prevents use of the Great Wheel, I think it might not be important to note at all. Someone who’s actually played some Pathfinder would need to clue me in, though.

But now I know why the reunion of these four authors on one book was such a big hairy deal: They’re damn good writers and designers. Almost makes me sorry I wasn’t buying books during the market bloat of the mid-90s.


Product Review – Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary

March 8, 2010

Alternate title: “You know you’ve had a bad day when you’d prefer the unspeakable horrors…”

I’m not alone in saying that Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors of all time. His insights into horror, fantasy and surrealism have influenced me in ways no other modern writer ever has. This might have something to do with the fact that my father introduced me to the Cthulhu Mythos at age twelve or so. Either way, I’ve read almost every word Lovecraft has ever written, and have read quite a few Mythos stories to boot.

Actually, Lovecraft is one of the most influential authors in the world, yet somehow, also one of the most obscure. So many people know of Cthulhu, without knowing where he comes from, and the Necronomicon gets referenced many times, again, without people realizing why. It’s lots of little things like that. He changed the way we think about horror stories, but most people don’t know it.

Fantasy geeks, however, do. And many have tried their hands at introducing Lovecraft’s monstrosities into various games, not the least of which being Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, D&D has had the “Far Realms” ever since Gates of Firestorm Peak, and this continues into 4e, what with your Star Pact Warlocks and the “dread stars” that empower them, but there’s rather little in the way of actual name dropping in the game itself.

Enter Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel, who seems to be Goodman Games’ “monster guy,” a man who has written literal volumes of monsters for 4th Edition. These works include the six (so far) Critter Cache PDFs, three of which I will probably review soon, and Blackdirge’s Dungeon Denizens, a monster book I own in hardcover, which I will also likely review someday.

On top of being a D&D fan, Blackdirge is also an avid reader of the Cthulhu Mythos, and thus we find ourselves here, reviewing his attempt at introducing Lovecraftian horrors to your 4e game.

First and foremost, I bought this from RPGNow, and it turns out they do the same thing Paizo does: They put a watermark on the file when you download it. Fine by me.

The PDF begins with a short dedication to Lovecraft and his works, and moves right on to monsters. There’s a good twelve types of monsters in here, each one from Lovecraft’s stories, and a good mix of his earthly horrors, and things that lurked in the Dreamlands. The Dreamlands are an oft-ignored facet of the Mythos, and so I applaud Blackdirge for throwing some in. Obscure ones, no less, like the Gug and Shantak. Night Gaunts are also in, but almost everyone whose read some Lovecraft knows about them.

Before I comment on their utility, I’d like to again applaud Blackdirge for putting as much of the stories as he could into the monsters themselves. The Color out of Space, for example, has a power called “Blasted Heath,” and Cthulhu has one called “A Mountain Walked.” Really, this is an almost pandering nod to the works that inspired this collection, but I find it to be a welcome one.

As for the monsters? Kind of a mixed bag, here. Blackdirge’s monsters are useful, make no mistake. However, a problem I’ve found both here and in Dungeon Denizens is… They tend to be far too strong for their levels. The most glaring example (forgive the pun) is the Color out of Space, a level 21 Elite Lurker with 318 HP, abilities that allow it to heal itself, insubstantial, and a 50% miss chance.

Yeah, you read that right: You’ll only hit it half the time, and you’ll do half damage every time you hit. This kind of front loading is all too common in Blackdirge’s works, and while I once again hasten to add that this does not make the work unuseable, it does leave me scratching my head.

For other examples, Great Cthulhu himself is a level 35 Solo Soldier that may well be too hard, even by Level 35 Solo standards, the Flying Polyp and Ghoul monsters, all of whom have Auras that bestow a -2 pentalty to attack rolls, on top of their beefy Armor Classes (another Blackdirge signature), things like that…

I apologise if I’m harping on this point wrongly. It’s possible I am. But from my expirences, these advantages render a monster neigh on invincible, even at the levels you’re supposed to face them at. I’m used to “patching” monsters mid-encounter, so it’s not a fate worse than death. Still, I feel it’s worth noting.

He also provides various “Eldricht Artifacts,” which are equipped by some of the monsters in this book, and represent the alien and unknowable implements that appeared in the stories these beasts were inspired from. Of course, mortal races were not meant to use them, and we have a version of 3rd Edition’s Use Magic Device shoehorned in, with dire consequences should you fail the roll. Your call if this is a good idea or a bad one.

If you can get past these issues- And I can- What you will find is a well-written and well-researched resource with monsters to, as Blackdirge himself puts it, scare the living hell out of your players. And at $7 regular price (Listed at $4 at the time of this post, however), what more can you really ask for? Not a must-have, unless you’re starved for Things That Should Not Be, but it’s not a bad purchase at all. You can probably wait for it to be on sale, honestly, but you’ve no doubt spent your money on worse. Like Player’s Handbook Races: Dragonborn, oy…

Product Review – Game Mastery Flip Mats

March 3, 2010

Jeez. What do I say about these? What do I say about my favorite product from Paizo Publishing, nay, my favorite tool as a Dungeon Master?

I own a lot of the current ones: Darklands, Desert, Forest, River Crossing, Bandit Outpost, Fortress, Arena, Pathfinder’s Lodge, and others. It’s because they’re so damn useful.

What are they? They are high-quality, laminated, two-sided maps. For most of the maps, there’s a specific area on one side and a blank area in the same style on the other. Some, like Forest and River Crossing, have two unique maps, while others, like Arena and Cathedral, have the same map in different colors. These mark the few disappointments I’ve seen in this series, really. ANd it’s not like they aren’t useful.

It’s said you can use dry erase markers with them, but I’ve never done that. Having maps I can just drop on the players is good enough for me.

See, that’s how it all began: I needed a filler encounter. I’d recently picked up the Darklands map. So I dropped that on the table and lo and behold, instant encounter. I eventually purchased more, and I stand behind what I said in my Map Packs review: One could likely run a campaign off of those two products.

Also, what I’ve done is use the blank side for a gridded “outdoor” area, and used the Dungeon Tiles for walls and such. It was far simpler than trying to build a whole area out of Dungeon Tiles… And kept my players from walking through walls, as was too often the case when I used to do that.

Really, what can I say? I love Paizo, and I wish to continue supporting them. I honestly wish I were instead running Pathfinder, but what can you do?

Oh, and in contradiction to what I said in my Map Packs review, apparently, Hero System 6th Edition does away with grid sizes and shapes. Now, one meter equals one meter. So, one could use the Paizo maps with Hero, as well as Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. You learn something new every day.

And soon I’ll review more Wizards of the Coast products. I actually like a great number of them. Just that they’ve done less for my game than has Paizo Publishing.

Product Review – Game Mastery Map Packs

February 28, 2010

I said I’d get to it, didn’t I?

Did a brief overview of Game Mastery last time, but again, it’s by Paizo. I love Paizo. And this is one of the main reasons why.

Oh yes the Map Packs. They come in themed sets, and I’m not going to list the ones I own. I own like better than half of them, it’s sick. Most of them haven’t been used yet, but one can never have too many maps.

And maps they are, as each themed set (Jungle, Sewers, Caverns, Extradimensional Spaces and so on) has a number of cards with grid maps on them. Square grids, of course. Perfect for… Well… D&D and Pathfinder, really…

Anyway, the main fact here is, they’re awesome. Every set contains high-quality art, and maps that either are one section, two sections, or four sections. Some newer sets introduced six sections as well. They’re easy to use, and they’re perfect on those rare occasions when a Flip Mat just won’t help.

Now you might be thinking, wait… Doesn’t Wizards of the Coast make a similar product? And yes, yes they do. The Dungeon Tiles are available, and they’re… All right, I guess. Truth is they tend to slide about too much, so even if you get some more flexibility from them, I enjoy the Map Packs more, if only for ease of use. The recent Dungeon Tiles sets do seem to be taking after the Map Packs, though, in that the tiles in recent sets suggest maps by how they look (there’s a set that makes round tower floors, complete with stairs, the more recent set has forest ruins that make rather perfect fort walls…), and this is an improvement over older sets.

Also, an upcoming Map Pack set is called Swallowed Whole, and involves the insides of huge creatures. No lie. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot in this game…

Overall, I can in fact recommend both, but really, you could run the game off of Map Packs and Flip Mats. My review of Flip Mats will no doubt surface in the next few days… But probably not before I give you an idea of what “off beat” really means to me. We’ll see what mood I’m in tomorrow…

Product Review – Game Mastery Item Cards

February 26, 2010

Ah, Paizo Publishing. Right now, they’re my favorite publisher. If I didn’t have a 4e game, I’d happily be spending my money on Pathfinder and its supplements, buying books that I would never get to use, but nevertheless will enjoy reading. Much like 3rd Edition, really.

However, in that nail-biting gap between the announcement of the end of the Dungeon Magazine and Dragon Magazine licence, and Paizo’s own announcement that they would be publishing their own d20 compatible RPG, Paizo began to make a line of products that were a little different. Unable to decide exactly what system they’d be supporting, Paizo created a line of products that supported no system at all.

This became Game Mastery, game aids that are advertised for use with “any fantasy role-playing game” but naturally, we know there’s really only two they would be used for: Dungeons & Dragons, and now Pathfinder. But any good Game Master will tell you that the presence of system-neutral items is a good thing.

I was planning on having this be one post, but since there are three lines I buy into frequently, I figured I’d make three posts. The three lines are Item Cards, Map Packs and Flip Mats.

We’ll start with the products I’ve begun using most recently, the Item Cards. I forget exactly why I decided to start buying these things. Probably because I have some trouble assigning item parcels to my players, and I figured a visual aide might help.

So I wound up buying a few… Quite a few, really. I’m glad my players like them so far, really…

Currently, I own Essentials, Dragon’s Trove, Adventure Gear, Adventure Gear 2, Wonderous Treasure, Weapons Locker, Elements of Power, Friends & Foes, Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson Throne.

On the last two, I wasn’t going to pick them up, but I found them on clearance, and thus got them both for $7 total, instead of $20. I’m rather glad I did, as they actually did inspire me for my own campaign. More so than the other items did, but that’s due to the items in those two sets sharing common themes.

Each deck has a number of cards, most of them more than 50. Each one has an item illustrated upon it: A weapon, a piece of armor, a potion, a wand, a staff, a miscellaneous  item, and so on. On the back, there is a short description of the item, and a space for taking notes on what the item really is. No stats are listed for any of the items, meaning they can be anything, from mundane armaments and adornments, to arcane implements of earth-shattering power.

Overall, the only sets I’m disappointed by are the Adventure Gear decks, which are entirely mundane items. However, I find that mundanity is often overlooked. Also, these decks evoked reactions from my players, so it’s possible they’ll see some use anyway.

Also, Friends & Foes isn’t item cards, but “face cards,” portraits of people of varying races and appearances. Apparently made from art recycled from the Pathfinder books, it nevertheless provides some interesting characters. Likewise, I’m looking forward to Villains, which is coming out soon.

Really, these decks are fun. If nothing else, they provide easy to use, yet still high quality props for your games. And frankly, some of the items are so mysterious, they cannot help but evoke ideas. My personal favorite is one from Wondrous Items, the “Devil Box.” An otherwise nondescript red box with a five-pointed star emblazoned on the lid. What’s in it? Who knows?

And that’s one of the things I love most about this game: You never really know what’s inside the box. It could be anything.

Product Review – Kill Or Be Killed! #1

February 23, 2010

Okay, I’m back. I was away for a while, because I honestly didn’t feel like updating. But, I had the inspiration to make a post… then, on my lunch break, I lurked the Paizo forums, and found something that was too interesting to ignore: A post from Neuroglyph, about a new product line: Kill Or Be Killed.

Boasting “boss encounters” for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, I decided I’d check it out, if the price was right. Two dollars? TWO DOLLARS??? Two dollars for what could possibly be an encounter for my players, no, for what could be MONTHS of campaign arcs, ending in a memorable showdown?!?! Congratulations, Neuroglyph, this product marks my first PDF purchase from Paizo Publishing.

So, here’s the rundown: Written by Michael Evans for Neuroglyph Games, Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, 16 pages, PDF format, available from Paizo Publishing and RPGNow. I know some people don’t like buying PDF files. Hell, I’m not fond of it myself. But Paizo, at the very least, lets you download them to your hard drive and look at them freely- it just places a fingerprint bearing your name and email address, along with the date you purchased it stamped on it, at the top and bottom of each page. No, it does not obstruct the text or graphics at any point. I can’t speak for RPGNow, having never used their service before. But hey, either way, I didn’t buy this to pirate it, I bought it to use it.

So, how is it? For two dollars, it’s pretty damn good. This first issue details a mutated Earth Elemental named Kor-oggo-rok, a spore-encrusted, demon-tainted monstrosity. The text grants  some insight as to how you’d throw him at the characters, and it even gives a detailed map of the battle ground, complete with hazards the characters will face there.

I can’t comment on how Kor-oggo-rok works in a fight, as I’ve had no chance to play test him, but I can comment on what he’s meant to emulate: He feels an awful lot like a “raid boss” from World of Warcraft. How so? He has specific attack patterns, divided into “phases” (including one where he hides underground and summons trash mobs to harass the heroes), he has “taunts” he uses when he activates his powers, and should you manage to kill the beast, he literally has  “rare drop” items.

Yes, here called “Relics,” they’re designed to be stronger than normal magical items of their level, and are, in at least in this case, pieces of the monster’s body. The three items provided are actually fairly interesting, and worthwhile treasures for the trouble of fighting this horror.

As for how I feel about this? It’s not a bad idea, come to think of it. Some people do play this edition for its more “console RPG” feel, and a product that takes advantage of this demographic, and the ability of the game to emulate it, certainly cannot be called a bad thing either. Indeed, it’s rather welcome, as most “boss monsters” provided by Wizards so far are in the Epic tier. I like having a memorable “boss” in the Paragon tier, for once.

The PDF is even nice enough to provide “chits” for Kor and his flunkies, which you can cut out and put on the map. Not a feature I need, as I have a decent collection of miniatures, but it’s a very nice gesture on Neuroglyph’s part.

I hope that Neuroglyph has more Kill Or Be Killed issues planned, because this was a strong first outing. I can recommend this for most Dungeon Masters, especially at the price. Personally, I am looking forward to inflicting Kor-oggo-rok on my players. Eliciting shrieks of horror from them is one of my joys as a DM, after all…

Product Review: Underdark

February 16, 2010

No anecdotal tale comes to my mind today, so I decided I would instead review one of the many books in my collection. At this rate, I’ll eventually review them all…

Today’s entry is Underdark, from Wizards of the Coast. A 4e supplement, this book weighs in at 159 pages and covers the titular environment known as the Underdark. This area is nothing new to veterans of the game, but it’s never bad to get more information about it.

Before I begin, I feel a bit of a disclaimer is in order. See, I may have been following Dungeons & Dragons for a good 20 years now, but my knowledge of the “canon” over those years has been limited. Back when the game was obsessively getting new products, during the reign of TSR? I wasn’t buying them. I didn’t really start until 3e, and I didn’t even buy a good quarter of the books that were available. Mostly, I bought what interested me, and I urge anyone who follows this deceptively expensive hobby to do the same.

What’s the point of all this? I often hear as a criticism, “We’ve seen this information before,” usually in some obscure and out of print resource from the late TSR/early Wizards era. A similar whine comes in the form of the information presented being wrong; incorrect as the “established canon” goes.

As opinions, both these statements are fine. Narrow minded and elitist, but fine. As points in a review, however, they are entirely too partial and exclusionary. In the first instance, if I had the choice between paying $30 for a new book, or $100 for an older, out of print book, I would likely buy the new book and not think twice about it. On the second point, I feel the canon is meant to be mutable and changing. By definition, it cannot truly be “wrong.” It is meant to be a guide, not the damn Decalogues.

With that out of the way, it should come as little surprise that I liked this book. I found it full of campaign seeds, campaign arcs, encounters, and locations that both, speak of the exotic and match the epic, world-shaking feel that 4e tries so hard to embrace.

Like many 4e products, Underdark is peppered with sidebars containing various chunks of information. One of my personal favorites is early on in the book: “Reality Versus Fun,” a brief warning about overtaxing the players with the “reality” of plunging into the subterranean world of the Underdark, insisting that any challenges you throw at the players should be used to heighten excitement and enhance storytelling, and not just to make them miserable. Yes, it reads an awful lot like my recent rants on this matter, and I can’t say I mind having a voice in the halls of power that echoes my opinions.

Of course, this brings with it the possible counter that Wizards of the Coast’s stance on 4th Edition, that the players should feel heroic and epic as often as possible, and that the menace of death should be a threat and not a promise has defeated the Gygaxian standards the game was built on. Though I will likely answer this particular gripe in full at a later date, I will say for now that Gygaxian gaming was never a good idea, and deserves to be defeated. The game should be about finding a compromise between all players involved, not about hammering square pegs into round holes. I find Gygaxian gaming to be good for amusing anecdotes, less cohesive narratives.

On to the book itself, it’s the fairly standard mix of encounters, locales, campaign arcs, monsters and recycled art one has come to expect from a 4e product. One of the more interesting bits is that this is the first product to provide detailed information on one of 4th Edition’s newest deities, Torog, the King that Crawls. His role as the creator and ruler of the Underdark is explored in detail, and again as an ongoing tradition of 4e, stats are provided for him, that he might menace your players in one final showdown.

This is another thing I happen to like about 4e, and one thing many probably do not: The providing of big name villains (such as Orcus and Drmogorgon) and deities (including Torog and Tiamat) as “final boss” encounters for your campaign. I, personally, can think of nothing more epic than ridding the universe of one of its oldest and most powerful evils. Indeed, fighting Orcus was the goal of at least one of my players in my first campaign. Sadly, that never came to pass, but the sentiment remains. I never really liked D&D having “sacred cows” that could never be touched. I mean, what’s the point of providing an enemy if nothing can ever defeat him?

Of course, going up against him might not be the best idea, either, and Underdark covers Torog’s role as torturer and jailer quite well. Would-be heroes should be ware, lest their actions in “protecting” the world unleash greater horrors upon it…

Overall, I enjoyed this book for what it brings, and if you’re a Dungeon Master for 4e and in the habit of picking up books for it, this is a good addition. I might even suggest it to people not running 4e, but you should probably see if it really interests you first.

Man I own a lot of books. This could take awhile…