Adventures Dark & Deep is published by BRW Games.
Adventures Dark & Deep is written by Joseph Bloch
This review was done using the writers personally owned copies of the product
Cost of Equipment, Services Etc
In Adventures Dark & Deep the monetary system is unchanged from the 1st edition player’s handbook. The equipment (This includes anything that can be bought or paid for from animals to hirelings to clothes) is broken down by type in clean menus with cost and weight listed. The grey and white background alternating tables are used for everything, which is an eye-pleasing gentle break up of information. The cost of items remains unchanged. There are multiple additions, in fact too many to list here that are split into different categories.
In fact, great care has been taken to select items that are not only appropriate for the time but often found in dungeons or encounters. This makes it far easier when the party shows up with a wagon full of loot. I know my players often times will strip that dungeon down to the stone floors. Copper teapot, throw it in. Fur Rug by the fire, roll it up and pass it to Igor. Hirelings to stash loot in the wagon while other hirelings guard the carts and the entrance.
Movement is broken down far more usefully by environment type and average size involved. A dwarf or a halfling obviously move slower than a human. Times are broken down into feet per minute ratio. This helps reduce confusion while maintaining consistency with the original text.
The Combat in 1st edition has always featured multiple components, that while simple on the face of things was often presented in a confusing hodgepodge fashion spread across 3 books and multiple articles. This is all cleaned up and displayed so everything you need is in one spot. Armor, Shields, and Helmets are given a quick but concise overview of their effects and various uses fully given. I was happy to see this! Weapon proficiencies are given by far their best explanation yet. Simple to the point but without any confusion and certainly without the appearance of being an afterthought. Weapons are given a full definition here, both variable names and historical uses.
This adds to roleplay elements giving players a means to understand how to describe an attack from a specific weapon, A Halberd is not going to strike like a whip. It’s a small touch but one that resonates. Surprise is given a thorough explanation and a matrix to determine its effect on initiative. The real treat of the Combat section is the piece on Combat Actions. The waters were always somewhat murky in 1st edition regarding options that players have. Each possible action is broken down by the timeframe for its ideal use, how it functions in combat and things can affect or change aspects of that action. Finally the revised iniative system incorporates the idea of weapon speeds fully. It is all 100% compatible with the original system, so have no fear in running older modules!
The first 7 pages of the magic section are dedicated completely to explaining the use of magic. This includes the various effects upon it from actions, the creation of items, spell book limitations, magic resistances and even different types of vision. The explanations are clearly given from a player information perspective. This is nice because it sets the idea of how something works in the world of Adventures Dark & Deep. Optional rules give a few options for enhancing this system even further.
Spells are given in the same format as the 1st edition PHB. Each class has a spell table with spells broken down by level. Once you are past the tables we get into the meat of the magic section the spells themselves. Spells are given in alphabetical order. Each spell has a stat block for level, requirements for casting and casting time. Each spell is also categorized by the school it belongs too. Perfect for the aspiring GM who wants to make specialist schools similar to the Illusionist. In fact, Mr. Bloch has done another example of this through his Darker Paths supplement “The Necromancer”. I hope he does more! With over 119 pages of spells and some of the new creations, there is a lot to look at here.
There are 3 appendixes in Adventures Dark & Deep. Appendix A gives the optional subclass of the thief, the Assassin. This is one decision I found interesting. I have to agree with the rationale though. The Assassin is definitely one of the original core classes that were a hard sell for a lot of GM’s. In a game that usually focuses on heroics, a class whose entire existence is predicated on taking money to kill folks regardless of their good or bad status is a tough fit.
Appendix B gives an easy access table for weapons vs armor types. Appendix C holds specific tables useful in combat. Both Appendix B and Appendix C would work perfectly in a GM screen, but not everyone likes to use those (I fluctuate between wanting to see the miniatures on my maps or terrain for combat explanations and wanting the rules right at hand, so I use a playmat.) Having those tables for players to have ease of access makes total sense. Let those slacker players look it up!
Confessions of a reviewer
I had an absolute blast reviewing Adventures Dark & Deep Player’s Manual. I will always love the verbose, semi-chaotic, treasure that 1st edition is. As a youth, as a military member traveling various places and as a father teaching my children the grand ole game, 1st edition has been front and center. I will even admit to having several misty-eyed moments as I recalled the adventures of my younger days with folks who are no longer with us anymore. While I was never fortunate enough to meet Mr. Gygax, I feel through his works like many of us connected. When Mr. Bloch made the claim to be refining his original work using his public quotes and forum posts I was skeptical. Most of all I was concerned that the masterpiece of my youth would be lost to modern sensibilities.
I am ever so glad to find my fears were unfounded. Mr. Bloch takes this artifact of awesomeness, puts gloves on, and very gently massages and polishes it into the diamond I feel Gary would have approved of. Even though he moved away from the d20 mechanism, he often spoke on forums and from interviews of having slight regret at not being able to complete his vision of 2nd edition. What Mr. Bloch has done is the difference between restoration and homage. AD&D will always be that classic Mustang, that has a few hiccups and a dead spot at 33 miles per hour but captures your youthful memories. Adventures Dark & Deep is that same car lovingly restored with original parts to look factory new at the auto show.
Should you buy it?
If you have never played original 1st edition, I can wholeheartedly suggest picking up Adventures Dark & Deep. It translates directly with very few issues that anyone running a 1st edition game could dislike. The book lays out the game clearly, in intelligent but not overly verbose detail. It takes you logically through the character creation process, into equipping and fleshing out that character. It gives a great explanation, perhaps the best yet, as to your role and what to expect when playing a game of Adventures Dark & Deep. The author is great at clarifying many aspects of the game that were either lost or confusing to players and GM’s alike. The player’s manual is all you need to get started as a player, and to continue the journey once the basics of play are second nature.
The artwork is a complete throwback to 1st editions aesthetic. The layout is probably the most noticeable upgrade. While completely mimicking the original style text and font, the presentation and layout of where pieces go are clearly evident of extreme care being taken. This is the one aspect where Mr. Bloch was able to apply modern innovation that Mr. Gygax did not have the benefit of. It just makes the product shine!
You can purchase Adventures Dark & Deep here. You can also follow along with Mr. Bloch at his Greyhawk Grognard blog site which is awesome for all things old school and Greyhawk related. BRW games also maintain a website for updates on Adventures Dark & Deep products in specific as well as future endeavors. His products are available in PDF format as well as many of them being available for print on demand. I have purchased the print on demand versions of multiple products and they are of good quality for sure. Also of a final note if you would like to know more about the mind behind Adventures Dark & Deep consider reading this interview by Multiverse’s Timothy Connolly. Retailers wishing to carry products can reach out directly to Mr. Bloch via firstname.lastname@example.org
Until Next Time,
Go on Adventures Dark & Deep!
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