D&D 5E [Let's Read] The Adventurer's Guide to the Bible

babi_gog

Explorer
@Libertad thanks for the review, and the full coverage. I think I'd agree with most of this review.

I think I'd agree about the Way of the Cross bit, and considered when running it I'd likely move everything after the garden to a cutscenes, and move onto the next section.

I'd also agree there are several parts where things either go a bit to far or not far enough, and need to figure these out.

I did like the bit parts and Easter Eggs hid in many locations. However also did feel that there was a little to much of trying to allow players to meet all everyone from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. A common issue with any adapted IP of the shoehorning in of every minor character. However this didn't seem to heavy, and in some place I'd just ignore it.

Also aware that Red Panda have another book in the works, dealing with the Book of Revelation (level 11-20 campaign, not carrying on directly from this one), so wonder if some spells are setting up for that.

Also for full disclosure, I'm listed among the Proofreaders and Play testers. Though we only worked on bits - mainly lineages and classes.
 

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TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I am somewhat amazed. This is not Dragonraid. Its not even the great Testament, Green Ronin's BC supplement.

This is a serious attempt at a gospel based D&D game. With a big boss fight with Lilith at the end!

I am not really sure what to think of it. But am amazed.
 

I backed the book and started a let's read in the original thread on it before a dose of whooping cough put me on my back for two months and put paid to that project.

The book is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a campaign inspired by the bible. When I backed it, i was hoping it'd be a general guide to D&D in a biblical-era-inspired middle east. That's not what it is. The emphasis is very heavily on the biblical campaign, the setting exists only to support the campaign. Every little location in Canaan is covered extensively, but there's absolutely nothing about even large and significant cities like Tyre. Parthia is treated as one city surrounded by empty space on the map, Egypt only has a couple of locations, etc etc. Locations not relevant to the campaign are ignored - you have evocative places like the tomb of Alexander the Great marked on a map, but having no attention whatsoever paid to them in the text. The history is flaky in many places. Not just the timelines of things like the existence of Spartans or Cleopatra's death, but many smaller details stand out annoyingly for a history nerd like me - like the 'Parthian cataphract' stat block being for a horse archer when cataphracts were heavily armoured lancers often supported by horse archers. There's near zero coverage of what the Roman, Parthian, Egyptian or even Judean societies were like, their social mores, how their religions and governments and economies worked, etc etc. It clearly seeks to immerse the player in the bible story, not the biblical world. For those keeping track at home,

Structurally, there's some issues with the campaign. It starts in Nineveh, but judging from the player content the great majority of PCs are assumed to be Judean, so your Nazirite or Zealot PC would have to be an expat. Some of the confrontations with the demons seem perfunctory. Naamah in Egypt in particular, while the scenario with the Gluttony demon seems like it's be really hard to run. PCs on a ship with 10 strangers who start to disappear? You'd need to run PCs with a truly exceptional level of plot immunity. And there's not really any mystery by this point - the PCs have followed all sorts of dark rumours to the ship, it's not like it'll be hard for them to spot the bad guy. The greed one looked the best to me, nice little dungeon crawl, while i like the idea of the Sloth one but it could turn very lethal very fast. If you have a few bad rolls or the party lacks area effects, or you hit this bit of the sandbox at low level, those groups of 4d4 demonic flies that each inflict a level of exhaustion unless you make a DC 16 Con save could leave you fatally weakened by the time you fight the actual demon. I'd like to have seen some of the demon encounters made bigger, placed on bigger maps, or perhaps some larger, unrelated-to-demon dungeons put in there. There's lots of small encounters that exist only to namedrop or easter-egg a bible story or personality, these eat up page space but consist of not much more than a couple of conversations and/or the PCs fighting a small group of fairly generic adversaries. This space could have been better used elaborating on the bigger encounters. A mile wide, an inch deep.

The whole crux of the campaign is the Gethsemane scene. Whether it soars or flops would be 100% dependent on how your group plays it, and the skill of the DM. It could be a really intense and non-standard campaign climax - you're supporting an ally in desperate emotional need who's being browbeaten by a gaslighting jerk rather than simply fireballing an enemy into submission. However, at the end of the day, what you're trying to support him to do is to submit to the most horrible and torturous death imaginable, so it's a bit difficult to know how it'd go. The writers seem to sense this and have you teleport off to fight the last two demons immediately after the crucifixion, but it seems rather perfunctory and tacked-on. It's as if they understood that the natural climax of the story was the crucifixion, but wanted to end on a big fight regardless, so they shoved one in there.

However, there's some good stuff here. I do like the idea of this parallel story of the demon hunt happening in the background of the more familiar biblical story and only intersecting at the end. Some of the big set-pieces are nice, some of the demon fights and the Library of Alexandria sequence, and the set-pieces about escaping prison or fighting as gladiators is a clever way to handle a campaign-ending TPK when your dice are unlucky. If you could pull off the Gethsemane scene successfully, it'd be one of those campaign moments you'd remember forever. The player material is a mixed bag, but the good is very good indeed. Where is Sticks To Snakes though? That's as biblical as you could possibly ask for in your magic spells but D&D hasn't seen it for several editions - surely this was the perfect book to bring it back in?

I do like it when the book gets a bit daring. It's not afraid to mess with history etc in the search for cool. Smuggling the Ark of the Covenant out of Jerusalem like something from a Graeme Hancock book. Changing history by potentially putting a Christian on the road to the Roman imperial throne hundreds of years before Constantine. Preserving the unicorn species! Fight demons in a deathtrap under the Great Pyramid or on top of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon! Having the PCs literally be the ones who kill John the Baptist at Salome's behest is something I would do my absolute best to bring about if I ran the campaign, it gives motivation and opportunity for redemption later. Besides, when the PCs meet Jesus, do they come clean about having killed his cousin?

(However, as @Libertad mentioned Salome is written as very young, but what really rubbed me the wrong way is how she's portrayed as a very young temptress who levels false allegations of creepy behaviour against a much older and holy man in order to bring unjust retribution down on his head. That's ... not a good way to portray that dynamic, to put it mildly, and this should very much have been changed.)

There's problems here, some fixes required, lots of holes to fill, and you'd have to have a group who was committed to the central assumptions of the campaign. It's an unwritten expectation through the whole book that PCs will eventually become followers of Jesus, and it's a written in-campaign assumption that Christianity Is Right. If players or DM can't buy into that, your game is going to struggle. If they can, and if the group is up to it, it could be a lot of fun and even genuinely moving in places.

Speaking as an atheist who was raised Christian but whose separation from Christianity was pretty easy and trauma-free, I'd find it ... weird. Playing a cleric of Yahweh, or having Joe across the table improvisationally roleplaying Jesus between mouthfuls of doritos. I'd cheerfully sign up to play the story (and the book had me mentally inventing PC ideas like the setting books that really grab my attention do), but the book is very reliant on everyone being on the same, Christian-centric, religious page, or at least being able to deal with it. And it's not just that non-Christians could disagree with Christians about this, it's perfectly possible that Christians could disagree with each other in-game too. After all, you''re handing power to the GM to put words in Jesus' mouth and that's not going to go down well with everyone. I think the intended audience for this was stated to be christian youth pastors etc running games for kids in their youth group, and it could work well for that (in my uneducated opinion). Regardless, a session zero is SOOOOO definitely required for this one, and it was good to see the book itself acknowledge that.

Art is generally very nice, except for the anachronistic cover. Quality is standard DTRPG print-on-demand (I think there was a higher-quality option but i missed that). There's a lot of sensible advice at the start for first-time GMs, which is a good move considering the target market. No play example though.

On the whole, flawed in places and interesting or intriguing in others. Probably not something i'd play if there was alternatives available simply because I'm not really the target market and speaking personally I'd find it odd playing D&D with real-world religions. Regardless, a mostly solid piece of work, especially for a first-time publisher. AND it came out bang on target date despite the pandemic, so kudos there.
 

Weiley31

Legend
The campaign, from the sounds of it, seems pretty interesting. Almost, in a way, like a SNES RPG. There are also a number of things that seem like they would be cool to cherry pick for regular 5E games. Things like the Angry Mob, Enchantress, Golems and what not. We get our first 5E Celestial Typed race option for 5E in the form of the Nephilim and that can easily be refluffed. And some of the items look neat.

Also: I like the mental image, for Greater Atonement, where the Spectral Goat appears and just simply HEAD BUTTS the Simulacrum for the insta-kill. I know that's not how it's supposed to go or be, but my rule of cool is just refusing to listen to me when it comes to logic.
 

babi_gog

Explorer
I'd also add that there is an 80+ page Player's Guide and Gazetteer that included all the
  • The introduction and what is role play
  • background info on the languages and cultures from the core book, including some pre-gen characters
  • all the bits for character gen, and then 14 page Gazetteer which is a slimmed down and redacted version of what is in the core book. Including a player facing map
  • The spell lists
  • Three vehicles - Chariot, Persian Dhow and Roman Warship
  • finally some Beasts and Familiars.
All of this is designed so it can be given to players. It has none of the core plot line from the main book in it.
 

Libertad

Hero
Thank you very much for that comprehensive review, @Libertad!

@Libertad thanks for the review, and the full coverage. I think I'd agree with most of this review.

I think I'd agree about the Way of the Cross bit, and considered when running it I'd likely move everything after the garden to a cutscenes, and move onto the next section.

I'd also agree there are several parts where things either go a bit to far or not far enough, and need to figure these out.

I did like the bit parts and Easter Eggs hid in many locations. However also did feel that there was a little to much of trying to allow players to meet all everyone from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. A common issue with any adapted IP of the shoehorning in of every minor character. However this didn't seem to heavy, and in some place I'd just ignore it.

Also aware that Red Panda have another book in the works, dealing with the Book of Revelation (level 11-20 campaign, not carrying on directly from this one), so wonder if some spells are setting up for that.

Also for full disclosure, I'm listed among the Proofreaders and Play testers. Though we only worked on bits - mainly lineages and classes.

You're very welcome. It was a lot of work writing, but also very fun. I did see the ad about the Book of Revelation at the end; it seems that Red Panda's delve into Biblical D&D isn't going to be a one-shot affair.

I am somewhat amazed. This is not Dragonraid. Its not even the great Testament, Green Ronin's BC supplement.

This is a serious attempt at a gospel based D&D game. With a big boss fight with Lilith at the end!

I am not really sure what to think of it. But am amazed.

Dragonraid's major weakness, I think, was the lack of fleshing out the world and is read very much like "we're writing this game for very young children, so we have to make the moral lessons simplistic." For instance, one of the temptations a troll can give the PCs is buying them tickets to a dragon music festival where they can drink "fizzy potions." It's obviously a reference to alcohol, but I have yet to meet an adult gaming group cringe at the mere mention of wine, beer, or any other alcoholic beverage. We also don't get much info on the Liberated Lands in which the Fantasy Counterpart Christians live in (or the Dragon-controlled lands either), so pretty much everything that revolves around day-to-day living or how society is governed is pretty much bare.

The Adventurer's Guide to the Bible feels a lot more fleshed out, even if it's not a deep ethnographic study.

I backed the book and started a let's read in the original thread on it before a dose of whooping cough put me on my back for two months and put paid to that project.

The book is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a campaign inspired by the bible. When I backed it, i was hoping it'd be a general guide to D&D in a biblical-era-inspired middle east. That's not what it is. The emphasis is very heavily on the biblical campaign, the setting exists only to support the campaign. Every little location in Canaan is covered extensively, but there's absolutely nothing about even large and significant cities like Tyre. Parthia is treated as one city surrounded by empty space on the map, Egypt only has a couple of locations, etc etc. Locations not relevant to the campaign are ignored - you have evocative places like the tomb of Alexander the Great marked on a map, but having no attention whatsoever paid to them in the text. The history is flaky in many places. Not just the timelines of things like the existence of Spartans or Cleopatra's death, but many smaller details stand out annoyingly for a history nerd like me - like the 'Parthian cataphract' stat block being for a horse archer when cataphracts were heavily armoured lancers often supported by horse archers. There's near zero coverage of what the Roman, Parthian, Egyptian or even Judean societies were like, their social mores, how their religions and governments and economies worked, etc etc. It clearly seeks to immerse the player in the bible story, not the biblical world. For those keeping track at home,

Structurally, there's some issues with the campaign. It starts in Nineveh, but judging from the player content the great majority of PCs are assumed to be Judean, so your Nazirite or Zealot PC would have to be an expat. Some of the confrontations with the demons seem perfunctory. Naamah in Egypt in particular, while the scenario with the Gluttony demon seems like it's be really hard to run. PCs on a ship with 10 strangers who start to disappear? You'd need to run PCs with a truly exceptional level of plot immunity. And there's not really any mystery by this point - the PCs have followed all sorts of dark rumours to the ship, it's not like it'll be hard for them to spot the bad guy. The greed one looked the best to me, nice little dungeon crawl, while i like the idea of the Sloth one but it could turn very lethal very fast. If you have a few bad rolls or the party lacks area effects, or you hit this bit of the sandbox at low level, those groups of 4d4 demonic flies that each inflict a level of exhaustion unless you make a DC 16 Con save could leave you fatally weakened by the time you fight the actual demon. I'd like to have seen some of the demon encounters made bigger, placed on bigger maps, or perhaps some larger, unrelated-to-demon dungeons put in there. There's lots of small encounters that exist only to namedrop or easter-egg a bible story or personality, these eat up page space but consist of not much more than a couple of conversations and/or the PCs fighting a small group of fairly generic adversaries. This space could have been better used elaborating on the bigger encounters. A mile wide, an inch deep.

The whole crux of the campaign is the Gethsemane scene. Whether it soars or flops would be 100% dependent on how your group plays it, and the skill of the DM. It could be a really intense and non-standard campaign climax - you're supporting an ally in desperate emotional need who's being browbeaten by a gaslighting jerk rather than simply fireballing an enemy into submission. However, at the end of the day, what you're trying to support him to do is to submit to the most horrible and torturous death imaginable, so it's a bit difficult to know how it'd go. The writers seem to sense this and have you teleport off to fight the last two demons immediately after the crucifixion, but it seems rather perfunctory and tacked-on. It's as if they understood that the natural climax of the story was the crucifixion, but wanted to end on a big fight regardless, so they shoved one in there.

However, there's some good stuff here. I do like the idea of this parallel story of the demon hunt happening in the background of the more familiar biblical story and only intersecting at the end. Some of the big set-pieces are nice, some of the demon fights and the Library of Alexandria sequence, and the set-pieces about escaping prison or fighting as gladiators is a clever way to handle a campaign-ending TPK when your dice are unlucky. If you could pull off the Gethsemane scene successfully, it'd be one of those campaign moments you'd remember forever. The player material is a mixed bag, but the good is very good indeed. Where is Sticks To Snakes though? That's as biblical as you could possibly ask for in your magic spells but D&D hasn't seen it for several editions - surely this was the perfect book to bring it back in?

I do like it when the book gets a bit daring. It's not afraid to mess with history etc in the search for cool. Smuggling the Ark of the Covenant out of Jerusalem like something from a Graeme Hancock book. Changing history by potentially putting a Christian on the road to the Roman imperial throne hundreds of years before Constantine. Preserving the unicorn species! Fight demons in a deathtrap under the Great Pyramid or on top of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon! Having the PCs literally be the ones who kill John the Baptist at Salome's behest is something I would do my absolute best to bring about if I ran the campaign, it gives motivation and opportunity for redemption later. Besides, when the PCs meet Jesus, do they come clean about having killed his cousin?

(However, as @Libertad mentioned Salome is written as very young, but what really rubbed me the wrong way is how she's portrayed as a very young temptress who levels false allegations of creepy behaviour against a much older and holy man in order to bring unjust retribution down on his head. That's ... not a good way to portray that dynamic, to put it mildly, and this should very much have been changed.)

There's problems here, some fixes required, lots of holes to fill, and you'd have to have a group who was committed to the central assumptions of the campaign. It's an unwritten expectation through the whole book that PCs will eventually become followers of Jesus, and it's a written in-campaign assumption that Christianity Is Right. If players or DM can't buy into that, your game is going to struggle. If they can, and if the group is up to it, it could be a lot of fun and even genuinely moving in places.

Speaking as an atheist who was raised Christian but whose separation from Christianity was pretty easy and trauma-free, I'd find it ... weird. Playing a cleric of Yahweh, or having Joe across the table improvisationally roleplaying Jesus between mouthfuls of doritos. I'd cheerfully sign up to play the story (and the book had me mentally inventing PC ideas like the setting books that really grab my attention do), but the book is very reliant on everyone being on the same, Christian-centric, religious page, or at least being able to deal with it. And it's not just that non-Christians could disagree with Christians about this, it's perfectly possible that Christians could disagree with each other in-game too. After all, you''re handing power to the GM to put words in Jesus' mouth and that's not going to go down well with everyone. I think the intended audience for this was stated to be christian youth pastors etc running games for kids in their youth group, and it could work well for that (in my uneducated opinion). Regardless, a session zero is SOOOOO definitely required for this one, and it was good to see the book itself acknowledge that.

Art is generally very nice, except for the anachronistic cover. Quality is standard DTRPG print-on-demand (I think there was a higher-quality option but i missed that). There's a lot of sensible advice at the start for first-time GMs, which is a good move considering the target market. No play example though.

On the whole, flawed in places and interesting or intriguing in others. Probably not something i'd play if there was alternatives available simply because I'm not really the target market and speaking personally I'd find it odd playing D&D with real-world religions. Regardless, a mostly solid piece of work, especially for a first-time publisher. AND it came out bang on target date despite the pandemic, so kudos there.

Thank you very much for your comprehensive post. I don't have much to add to it but I do agree with several things like the Exhaustion death spiral with the Abyssal Flies or Salome's villainizing of John the Baptist. I didn't exactly miss reading those, but there's a lot to cover in the module and wanted to keep things from becoming too wordy.

The campaign, from the sounds of it, seems pretty interesting. Almost, in a way, like a SNES RPG. There are also a number of things that seem like they would be cool to cherry pick for regular 5E games. Things like the Angry Mob, Enchantress, Golems and what not. We get our first 5E Celestial Typed race option for 5E in the form of the Nephilim and that can easily be refluffed. And some of the items look neat.

Also: I like the mental image, for Greater Atonement, where the Spectral Goat appears and just simply HEAD BUTTS the Simulacrum for the insta-kill. I know that's not how it's supposed to go or be, but my rule of cool is just refusing to listen to me when it comes to logic.

Turning Noah's Ark into an (implied, not detailed like with maps and rooms) dungeon crawl is the kind of thing I'd expect in a Biblical video game RPG.
 

Oh, and while I ❤️ that the pet dog stat block lets your dog heroically and tragically sacrifice itself for its master as a reaction, as a dog owner I do question whether dogs are entirely LAWFUL good... :LOL:
 

Libertad

Hero
Also since others have asked on other sites about this and other products I review, the book (and things like maps and player-friendly material) can be purchased on Drive-Thru RPG:


 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Oh, and while I ❤️ that the pet dog stat block lets your dog heroically and tragically sacrifice itself for its master as a reaction, as a dog owner I do question whether dogs are entirely LAWFUL good... :LOL:
Chaotic good when young. Neutral good when old.
 

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