Neuroglyph Games Only a Pen is Mightier Catch it on the Rise Dust shaken from a Book

Review of DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors by Taurus XII

A connecting principle / Linked to the invisible / Almost imperceptible” ~ Synchronicity I (The Police, Synchronicity, 1983)
DDS2 Taurus Twelve Cover
Just before GenCon, I had the good fortune to get a review copy of the recent Kobold Quarterly Issue #14.  And in the course of writing the Review of KQ14, I had my DM’s perspective shaken up a bit – which is never a bad thing really – by an editorial by Monte Cook.  Entitled “Dice vs. Story”, it suggested that by adding more random factors to a role-playing game, such as random events and encounters, can actually inspire better and more creative role-playing from not only Players, but from Dungeon Masters as well.

In fact, I was so inspired by the idea, I ended up writing an commentary of my own, examining the idea of adding “old school” random encounters back into my campaign.  And by “old school”, I mean creating a random encounter table which contains a truly variable range of threat – from level appropriate ones to encounters which are far beyond the Characters’ abilities to combat!

[Editor’s Note: if you are curious about some of these “random” concepts, please feel free to check out Embracing Chaos: Randomizing the Random Encounter.]

But apparently, this “theme of randomness” has not stopped there.  Taurus Twelve has released the second in their D100 Discovery Series, offering table of random events to use in almost any game system with DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors.

DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors
  • Designer: Jarrod Camiré
  • Cover Illustrator: Alvaro Ennes / Dreamtime.com)
  • Publisher: Taurus XII
  • Year: 2010
  • Media: PDF (53 pages)
  • Cost: $2.95

DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors is a role-playing game supplement designed to create random events, and possibly encounters, in a variety of terrains.  The ebook is designed to be used with nearly any fantasy-based role-playing game, including D&D 4E, but could also be used in older versions of D&D, Pathfinder, and other FRP games.  DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors contains six tables of 100 entries each, giving Dungeon Masters a full 600 possible random events and encounters to use in their campaigns.

The Production Quality of DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors is fair to good, with a simple, single column formatting of the encounter tables, and with relatively “printer-friendly” graphics and fonts.  The artwork consists of public domain art and terrain photographs, and while not exceptional, does a fairly nice job of enhancing the reading experience of the ebook.  The least desirable aspect of the Production Quality is the lack of bookmarks in the PDF, which can be troublesome when navigating through an ebook of this size.  There is a table of contents at the beginning, but it is of little help once you are deep amongst the random tables.

The Author discusses in his Introduction how a book like this can be used in a fantasy role-playing game:

The 600 entries that compose this book can be used as you like, and are adaptable for any level. A single line can be just a mundane event or some inconsequential hearsay, but it can also prove to be the first hint of a greater mystery or else the prelude of a terrible conflict. As always, the choice is yours to make…

As with the previous volume, DDS1: Temple, Castle and Wilderlands, this book can be used in one of two ways.  At face value, it is a book of random events that can occur in a variety of terrain (see below), and can add a bit of spice and mystery to the Player-Characters’ travels.  On the other hand, many of the entries can also double as adventure hooks, creating the beginning impetus of a plot which a Dungeon Master can choose to develop any way he or she sees fit.  So whether the events on the tables are just some random unexplained weirdness which happens in a magic-based fantasy world, or if it is something of importance which will propel the adventurers on a major quest, this ebook can add a lot of variety to a campaign.

The six tables listed in DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors each cover a predominant terrain type:

  • Cavern Encounters
  • Forest Encounters
  • Hill Encounters
  • Prairie Encounters
  • Sea Encounters
  • Volcano Encounters

As mentioned, the encounters range from minor events which are almost “window-dressing” in nature, to very specific and very detailed events which almost beg to be an adventure hook:

Cavern Encounters

06 A small stream runs across a secondary passage.

55 A half-drow cartographer wants to map The Worms Caves, an immense layer of irregular cavities that are all interconnected together by quite singular tunnels. If the legends are true each passage is in fact either the calcified gullet of a purple worm or a structure held in place by the skeleton of such a beast.

Forest Encounters

08 A rabbit flees.

38 A one-eyed old man whose side has been pierced by a spear is hanged to the biggest branch of an immense ash tree. An opened leather satchel whose content has scattered lies under the hanged man: diminutive rectangular stones, each with a single engraved rune.

Volcano Encounters

06 A large aperture in the flank of the mountain vomits a dark panache of smoke.

13 Sirix – aka The Silver Siren – an alluring sorceress with a foul temper, heads for The Twin Cauldrons. If the rumors are true the witch has already carved a summoning circle between the two volcanoes in order to bring forth a powerful efreet. The Siren wants to use the elemental to avenge an affront perpetrates against her by the Duke of Elderberry.

[Editor’s Note: Score one for yourself, by the way, if you recognized the Tale of Odin there in #38 of the Forest Encounters.]

Despite a lot of imaginative writing here by the Author, there are still a couple of problems I had with this new edition of the D100 Discovery Series.  One of the major issues I see with DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors is that some of the random events are not events at all, but are written to be almost exactly like adventure hooks.  This produces an odd juxtaposition between the entries on some of the tables.  It is one thing for Characters to see a rabbit bolt from the underbrush, and quite another being suddenly aware of a quest by a Drow cartographer to map worm caves.  The first in the series, DDS1: Temple, Castle and Wilderlands, had more of the weird random events, and fewer of what appeared to be full-fledged adventure hooks.  I think that DDS2 ends up appearing a bit muddled, flipping between random events which might be made into adventure hooks, and full blown adventure hooks which are not really a random event at all – and would almost certainly need some introductory material by the Dungeon Master for them to be useful at the gaming table!  An ebook of adventure hooks is a welcome resource to many DMs, and perhaps the Author needs to produce one, and maybe consider editing out those entries in DDS2 which are too developed to be just a random event.

Overall Grade: B+

DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors is a pretty nifty resource, and provides a lot of interesting events and adventure hooks for Dungeon Masters to use at the gaming table.  However, the lack of focus between a random event and a random adventure hook got a bit blurred, and some of the entries would not be readily useful if randomly rolled at the table – most likely, in fact, prompting yet another roll.   So sadly, I cannot say that DDS2: Caves, Sea and The Great Outdoors is as good as its predecessor in the series, but given its very modest price tag, it is still certainly worth consideration as an addition to a Dungeon Master’s virtual book shelf.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card

  • Presentation: B
  • - Design: B
  • - Illustrations: B-
  • Content: B+
  • - Crunch: [NA]
  • - Fluff: B+
  • Value: A

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

Leave a Reply