Game: Tome of the Ancients, Volume 2: Lairs
Publisher: Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games
Series: Tome of the Ancients/d20
Review Dated: 29th, December 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
I had previously read and enjoyed Tome of the Ancients, Volume 1: Artifacts, and found it to be a useful DM tool to add detail to the campaign. With this in mind I had high expectations for Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games, but found myself doubting that could keep up the same level of detail that I so loved. After all, a lair is just an open chuck of cave with Encounter 3A, right? Wrong. I found this second installment of Tome of the Ancients to be as useful as the first.
The Introduction set me at ease right away. That and a quick scan of the Table of Contents showed me that this was going to be more than a glorified random “dungeon dressing” chart. The Introduction alone shows how to think from the point of view of the inhabitant, not just the invaders (read: pc’s). There are random charts provided for the various steps of lair creation, but I found that they weren’t needed as such. Just treating them as lists of ideas was sufficient for me.
Chapter 1 deals with the “Master of the House.” In other words, it is the one who lives there. This chapter can be used to create a lair encounter completely from scratch, i.e. “I want to put something in this empty room.” More than just a random encounter generator, chapter 1 covers the monsters’ motivation and organization. Additionally, details such as environmental factors, and even the original builders/inhabitants, round out the first chapter.
Additional organization notes–as well as how to include multiple types of creatures–are covered in the next chapter, “Lair Minions.” For balance-conscious DM’s, a chart to match Challenge Levels of the lair’s master with the Encounter Level of the minions–quite handy.
The next chapter, “Mapping and Terrain,” includes random map charts (well detailed I might add), but there are a variety of mapping programs available that can either randomly create a map, or assist the DM in making his or her own. The real benefit of this chapter is in the advice on how to go deeper than the map itself. By putting your mind’s eye into the lair itself–not just lines on paper or your computer screen–helps in creating a truly worthwhile lair. Remembering that the inhabitants live here, not merely exist behind a trap waiting for the adventurers to slaughter their family, can make the lair (and thus the encounter) memorable.
“Traps and Surprises” begins with advice that traps are not merely obstacles in their own right, but are placed by the lair inhabitants for a reason. Information about where to include and–more importantly–where not to include traps, is hightly useful. There are a number of various resources on the traps themselves, but this chapter succinctly tied them into the lair inhabitants. This chapter also includes a chart to match the EL & CL. The bulk of this fourth chapter is with random charts for traps. Again, I found the ideas that were generated just from reading them to be useful–I haven’t needed to roll on them yet.
The final chapter is where the goodies lie for the pc’s. “Treasures” tie in previous chapters, such as traps on the chests. This isn’t a big list of types of treasures, but rather advice on things that you might not have considered. For example, the treasure may be on display–museum style, or may be “spent” on posh furnishings rather than as coins.
The book continues with three appendices, each a fully fleshed-out lair. There is a great level of detail to each appendix–the first one alone is six pages. Each of these could be the centerpiece for a campaign, and is at least a few sessions worth of gaming enjoyment. I shan’t provide details of these mini-modules, lest I spoils some of the surprises for the players. Suffice to say that Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games follows their own advice here. A fourth appendix is a quick-reference of all the charts from the book.
Volume 2: Lairs concludes with what’s becomming something of a DDGG trademark, how to make this reference your own. This involves advice on how to customise any of the charts, how to incorporate the lairs you create into your campaign, and a few blank maps to use.
Overall, I found Tome of the Ancients, Volume 2: Lairs to be a useful and well-crafted work. There isn’t art beyond the covers, maps, footers, and a single image on the first page. The book is written in a concise style, with most of it as bulleted discussion points. None of this I find negative, as it gets to the heart of the matter. I would recommend this book.