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Thursday, 9th August, 2012, 04:22 AM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
Review of the Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary by Casey Brown
Before the release of D&D 4E, there were D&D Encounters, and before the Living Forgotten Realms, there was the RPGA-sanctioned Living Greyhawk Campaign. For over eight years, from 2000 to 2008, the RPGA’s Living Greyhawk Campaign was an opportunity for the D&D 3.X/d20 community to come together in a gaming experience. In local gaming groups, and at conventions, both large and small, D&D fans were able to participate in a shared setting and a shared campaign arc, long before the organized play of D&D Encounters ever hit the local gaming store.
And the Living Greyhawk Campaign was not merely a collection of “core” adventures designed under the supervision of Wizards of the Coast, but it was also regional events created by gamers in various parts of the world. The mythical lands of Oerth were superimposed on our own world, banding together gamers both by real geography and by a shared background which would influence their gaming experience on every level. Region-specific adventures were written by certain RPGA members to keep the campaign arc moving forward between the release of core adventures, or to offer players side-arcs which only their region would enjoy.
One RPGA member named Casey Brown, living in the lands designated as the Bandit Kingdoms (Texas & Oklahoma), had been deeply involved with organizing and coordinating of the Living Greyhawk Campaign for his region. An army veteran, with degrees in both History and Creative Writing, Mr. Brown became one of the Bandit Kingdom’s Triad, and served his fellow D&D gamers in their RPGA pursuits both regionally and at conventions. His book, The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdom Summary offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the RPGA Network, and of the massive library of adventures and mini-campaigns developed by members of the Bandit Kingdoms!
The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary
- Author: Casey Brown
- Illustrations: Casey Brown & Britt Frey
- Publisher: Casey Brown
- Year: 2012
- Media: Soft Bound (82 pages)
- Price: $7.95 (Available now from [ame="http://www.amazon.com/BDKR1-Unofficial-Greyhawk-Reference-ebook/dp/B007U88GPQ?&linkCode=wey&tag=neurogames-20"]Amazon.com[/ame])
The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary is a composition by Casey Brown, offering both a behind-the-scenes look and index summary of the RPGA Living Greyhawk adventures written by members of the Bandit Kingdoms. The book delves into the adventures designed exclusively for the Bandit Kingdoms region, as well as a list of the adventures played out by year from 2000-2008. The author includes a summary and commentary of each of the non-Core adventures, as well as some insights about what gaming was like among Bandit Kingdom players - many of whom adopted the lore of their region heavily into their character creation and their character personas.
The production quality of The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary is average to good, with a nice layout, logical progression to the content flow, and a very affable writing style. That said, there were a few problems with the presentation which knocked off a couple points from the quality score. The author’s use of footnotes on nearly every page was a real issue for me, as it broke the flow of my reading quite frequently – particularly when there were multiple footnotes keyed to two or more words in the same sentence. As a - shall we say - mature gamer, recently burdened with the charmingly annoying affectation of having to wear bi-focals, jumping between reading a standard font in the text and the tiniest point font in a footnote was, frankly, a wearying process. Overall, the footnotes transformed the summary from what could have been an entertaining chronicle and index of adventures into a dry and dusty old college textbook.
The cover of the The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary was designed with a nifty old edition “module” motif, even if the art is from 14th century sources. But the lack of internal illustrations left every page feeling like the dreaded Wall of Text (WoT) that so many of us have come to cringe away from on the internet. Mea culpa, and I cannot deny I’ve written a few WoT’s myself in both my reviews here and on my own Neuroglyph Games website – chances are, we’ve all done it now and then. But I would have thought that the author could have at least included a few public domain sketches or perhaps a few pieces of DeviantArt which were evocative of Dungeons & Dragons or the Greyhawk setting, thereby breaking up the monolithic pile of words on each page.
The Untold Story
As an interesting side note, the review of The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary was quite nearly aborted before it even began, and I’ve actually been sitting on this book for a couple months now. The contents of the book was erroneously perceived to be a discussion of core RPGA material, and the author received a “cease and desist” order from you-know-who, despite the material being for an edition which is no longer supported by Wizards of the Coast, and about a Living D&D campaign which was replaced by Living Forgotten Realms. Nevertheless, the author managed to quell concerned parties, and the book is back up for sale - and I could go forward with the review.
The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary opens with a quote from the opening of one of the regional RPGA modules called Elven Connection, which then became canon, and was included in the opening of every adventure thereafter:
Please remember that things are different in the Bandit Kingdoms; heroes can be made, bought, or sold, all in the same day and all depending on the situation and the price. The question isn’t “What is the right thing to do in a given situation?” but rather, “What are the ramifications of any decision I make?”, “Whose bad side do I not want to be on?”, or “When will I need to call in a favor?” Remember, everything’s negotiable, and some things are more negotiable than others.The author goes on with an introduction which describes how that unique flavor for the region affected not only how RPGA members gamed there and the types of adventures they wrote, but also how it affected their characters’ personalities and attitudes. While the RPGA Network forbade the inclusion of evil characters and plots, the members of the Living Greyhawk’s Bandit Kingdoms were, nevertheless, very, very, VERY, Chaotic Neutral.
The first chapter details some of the unique issues associated with bringing forth adventures under the RPGA rules, as well as problems with designs, and how the scenarios are given certain id-tags depending on their type and content. The author also boasts a bit about how prolific the adventure designers were in the Bandit Kingdoms region - and rightly so by exceeding the content needed for the expected 48 hours of RPGA playtime per year by a couple times over!
The next chapter is a simple index of the regional adventure titles and authors for each of the eight years of the Living Greyhawk campaign. But following those few pages is the real heart of the book: a summary of each and every Living Greyhawk scenario written for the Bandit Kingdoms from 2000 to 2008. The summaries are broken down by year, and include which adventure path they belonged in, the setting location, a short summary of the adventure, and a commentary by the author with insights about the adventures design and/or content. So even if you never participated in the RPGA Living Greyhawk campaign but enjoy playing in the setting with your own gaming group, this section of the book is a treasure trove of adventure ideas, plot hooks, and storylines which could keep a busy DM making scenarios for years to come.
Following that, the author gives a very solid timeline of events in the Bandit Kingdoms in the Living Greyhawk campaign, based upon all the regional adventures plotlines. And as a wrap-up, there is a list of quotable quotes from various Bandit Kingdom gaming sessions which are both amusing and demonstrate just how immersive the players were part of the “spirit of place” in both the mundane world and in their adopted Greyhawk land.
Overall Score: 3.25 out of 5.0
Despite my personal struggle with way too many footnotes and the lack of illustrations, The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary is still a darned good read for gamers who either play (or played) in “Living” RPGA events, or love to use the Greyhawk Campaign setting. Although the author writes about a time when 3rd/3.5 edition was the pinnacle of D&D, the material is presented in an edition-free manner, and useful to any D&D gamers interested in ideas for adventures in Greyhawk – and specifically, the region of the Bandit Kingdoms. Given the modest price for all the content and history, The Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary is well worth a place on any D&D gamers shelf – doubly so if you’re a DM looking to improve their Greyhawn setting campaigns!
So until next review… I wish you happy gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 2.75
- - Design: 3.0 (Decent layout /writing; but constant footnoting made for a troubling reading experience)
- - Illustrations: 2.5 (The cover was ok, but the lack of internal illustrations was a major disappointment)
- Content: 4.0
- - Crunch: NA (It’s all fluff!)
- - Fluff: 4.0 (Tons of fluff for Greyhawk; great behind-the-scenes stuff about the Living Greyhawk campaign)
- Value: 3.0 (Modestly priced for all the adventure ideas and hooks you get along with the history lesson!)
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Thursday, 9th August, 2012, 06:09 PM #2
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
An excellent review, Neuroglyph! I personally enjoyed the footnotes, and I didn't mind the lack of illustrations, but to each their own.
One minor point, the letter the author received wasn't a C&D per se, but was served under the DMCA - while the physical book was pulled from sale until the issue was resolved (which took only a few weeks), the Kindle edition never ceased to be available for commercial purchase.
There are also two further books planned, and I hope we see them soon!
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Monday, 20th August, 2012, 02:00 AM #3
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Thanks for this article. It is really great to be forwarned of the bad aspects of a product, as well as its good aspects. I really think you have given enough information here for someone to make an informed purchasing decision.
an article about the DCMA notice, and has also written several articles about the self-publishing process (including geek-level stats on how much commission he earns from CreateSpace, Amazon or Kindle.
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