Sunday, 18th March, 2007, 06:52 PM #1
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Every now and again a book comes out that has controversy surrounding it. Most of those deal with the topic of the book but every once in a while the controversy is about something else. There is controversy about this book though I will be honest and say I do not understand why. There have been threads on a few message boards that have been rather heated and I have chosen not to read them. I only mention it so that people can know whatever that is all about is not part of this review. And I am not looking for someone to explain it to me. I will be content to remain ignorant on this subject.
Dreadmire is a hardbound book stuffed with information on swamps and like a swamp it does leak out and covers other things. The book is written by Randy Richards who does a nice job here and obviously has a good understanding of swamplands. The book is by Spellbinder Games and it is the only product of theirs I am aware of. It is over 220 pages long and has some nice black and white art. The book has a very nice table of contents but it has no index. There is a lot of information in here and I feel an index would add considerable value to using this book.
Dreadmire is a swamp setting as well as a swamp resource. If one has a swamp area in there own setting they should find that this one fits rather well into it. The first chapter is all about the swamp and has these great informative sidebars labels as Fauna Facts. These little bits are about the dangers of the swamp and showcase specific animals and monsters that one will have to be aware of. In addition to the descriptions there are also some well done encounter tables presented here. I am not one to use these tables but it does make a good list of what can be found in a swamp. There is even a disease sub-table with over forty new diseases on it. Some of these are pretty nasty though the highest DC is only 21.
In the People and Places chapter there is a good amount of interesting typers of people one can encounter. I do not see anyone using all of them as there is a lot but they have some clever ideas for some unique encounters in the swamp. It does take the traditional take of making almost ever race have a swamp version like Mud Dwaves and Wild Elves. It also though introduces new variations like the Evile Cannibals and has originations like the Derangers that are evil Rangers. There is not a lot of mechanics attached to them here so one can just take the details and apply them to already existing classes and races with out too much trouble. There are three adventures also written up though none are very long. There is one for low level, mid level, and high levels adventures and are creative and showcase the swamp environment nicely. There are also almost twenty NPCs written up in another section. They have small stat blocvks and the focus is on who they are and not the numbers that define them.
Swamps are home to many unusual creatures and Dreadmire has moiré then its share of new one. There are many that are like insects and deadly animals as well to the truly monstrous. There are over two hundred of fifty creatures here though some of them are just names of otherwise familiar creatures. This is a large portion of the book though they did a nice job of keeping it from being the book and its main focus.
If not for the monsters one might think magic was the main component of the book. There are plenty of new magical items and spells in here. The focus is mostly on swamps but the sheer number makes it easy to see some that are not swamp inspired. There are many new classes as well. The balance of these classes and magical items is one that is tough to gauge just by reading them. There are a few that can be troublesome but the creativity of the classes and items makes them usable. For people who like classes to have no dead levels this book will be seen as a good thing. The classes have a lot of things to offer characters.
There are a few appendixes of maps and terms and a bibliography. I like the new alphabets the book has and other creative touches like that. Also on the bottom of ever page there is a quote by all sorts of people found in the swamp. Some of them little snippets of wisdom others are a bit comical. It is a nice touch of creativity to the book.
Dreadmire is a good swamp resource that does meander off topic at times and presents many monsters, magical options, and classes. I find the creativity and descriptions of the book easily surpass the mechanics in it. It would have been a strong book as a generic fantasy system supplement instead of trying to make it deal specifically with d20 fantasy. It is a book with good ideas and some clever adventure hooks that a DM of a swamp campaign or adventure could find a lot of good use from.
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