For purposes of thoroughness, I want to post my (originally private) comments which are link #2:
- The layout of this book is very ornate but in practical terms it is atrocious. There are gaping chunks of whitespace, and items within tables go across columns and pages (sometimes continuing on both sides of what will be a printed page). There are six totally blank pages to make sure each chapter starts on a new page, and thirteen pages are taken up by the same graphic - effectively this is a 141 page book with 19 pages of padding. The art is sparse but of reasonable quality.
- The three seclusia provided in the book are not fleshed out; instead they make the mystifying choice of providing multiple options for every facet of running them. The magic items are somewhat interesting, but the rest of the section is absolutely useless since it mostly duplicates the charts presented later on in the book, with fewer choices. Each seclusium could have been done in less than half the space without losing anything.
- The charts at the end of the book could be quite useful. They are still poorly laid out, and there are literally 72 charts in the book that end with the phrase “Or another of your own creation.” This is irritating. But the charts themselves are actually usable and could generate an interesting random environment, some people in it, and some magic items. This is the meat of the book.
- The maps at the end are sub-useless. It’s not clear what they represent, but it certainly isn’t a wizard’s seclusium. I am going to go so far as to say they are the worst maps I’ve seen in an OSR product.
- Part one of the book is cool, and gives it a bit of a weird fantasy vibe. It’s somewhat followed through in the magic items and the portals, which have a pseudo-Vance feel.
- D. Vincent Baker failed to design an OSR module. There is almost no system material here, and as such the NPCs are just bland text. This is a generic product that might as well have been systemless. No harm using it in old school games, though. The “House Rules” are crap.
Overall: If the layout were better, and this book was just Part One and Part Three, I would say it was a good book. That’s about 70 pages of the actual final product, or half of it when you discount the padding. Part two has some half-formed ideas that aren’t really worth following up on. The maps are awful. As a whole, I’d say it’s worth getting in PDF so that you can reference the useful parts.
– Wayne Rossi 2013-08-06 22:36 UTC
I think the “maps” are actually supposed to be blank sheets for the DM to draw on.
– JYB 2013-08-06 23:24 UTC
Interesting comment on Google+. More about improvisation on Roles, Rules & Rulings.
– AlexSchroeder 2013-08-07 22:14 UTC