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D&D 2E Looking back at the leatherette series: PHBR, DMGR, HR and more!


I'm pretty sure you have the part about which gods were overcome backwards. :unsure:
I don’t think so? :unsure: (Unless I’m missing a Nilbog joke here...)

From Volo’s Guide, p 182

When Maglubiyet conquered the goblin gods, he in-tended to leave only Khurgorbaeyag alive as a harsh overseer who would keep the goblins under heel. But the goblins' pantheon included a trickster deity who was de-termined to get the last laugh. Although its essence was shattered by Maglubiyet, this trickster god survives in splintered form as a possessing spirit that arises when goblinoids form a host, causing disorder in the ranks un-less it is appeased. Goblins have no name for this deity and dare not give it one, lest Maglubiyet use its name to ensnare and crush it as he did their other deities. They call the possessing spirit, and the goblin possessed by it, a nilbog ("goblin" spelled backward), and they revel in the fear that a nilbog sows among the ranks of the bug-bears and hobgoblins in the host.

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The EN World kitten
I don’t think so? :unsure: (Unless I’m missing a Nilbog joke here...)
What I meant was, DMGR4 tells us that Maglubiyet is the is the overarching "goblinoid" god, with Khurgorbaeyag being the god of goblins specifically and Nomog-Geaya being the god of hobgoblins specifically. Bargrivyek is strongly implied to also be a goblin deity, as his entry makes reference to goblins specifically rather than goblinoids in general. So while it's not the most robust pantheon, there are still goblin gods in Monster Mythology.


The EN World kitten
With DMGR5 Creative Campaigning, we've officially reached the halfway point, not just for the DMGRs, but for this retrospective as a whole. The twentieth leatherette book out of a grand total of thirty-nine, from here on out the majority of the series is behind us.

That being said, I can't quite bring myself to get excited, simply because this book wasn't one of my favorites.

Maybe it's an issue of lack of nostalgia, since I only picked this one up a few years back, but a lot of what's here didn't do it for me. Though I strongly suspect that would have been the case if I'd gotten this back when I was a teenager as well. That's because this is, to a very large extent, an "ideas" book, and I've never been very fond of them. Ideas, to me, are a dime a dozen; what I want is practical implementation. Give me mechanics - or, alternatively, expand on the canon/lore - rather than just a few paragraphs of "this might be a cool thing to try out."

Now, to be fair, this book does have a good amount of mechanical heartiness to round out its ideas. The first chapter, exploring various settings for campaigns beyond the typical medieval European fare, has not only sample NPCs - some of which expand on some of the ones seen in Legends & Lore; I particularly loved that this gave us stats for Gilgamesh and Enkidu, something we don't otherwise get in 2E (save only if you note that "Gilgamesh" is an alias of Gilgeam's in Powers & Pantheons) - but also things like statistics for weapons that you'd find in a Renaissance society, or even a future one! That's the sort of thing I like to see! (I wish the example campaign world developed here, Chanak, had appeared in some later products - even if only as a cameo - rather than being completely forgotten.)

Other chapters, however, left me cold. The "Alternative Adventures" chapter at least tries to present stats and a few fairly heavy outlines, making them halfway to being prefab modules, but the rest of the chapter comes down to plot seeds and random encounter generators (the latter of which don't expound on their results beyond a few detail-oriented tables). Those aren't particularly bad, but leaving aside the fun of running with randomly-generated results, not something I find particularly helpful.

The entire book is uneven this way. The chapter on alternative rules (e.g. different ways to make ability checks, new uses for proficiencies, etc.) and advice for how to mix up treasure distribution is good stuff. The chapter on "freestyle" campaigning - which consist of adventures with smaller portions of the group (potentially one-on-one sessions) that have a heavy focus on role-playing and skill-use rather than combat - feels avant-garde to the point of almost coming across as though it wants to advertise another game entirely. While I appreciate that D&D, in any edition, doesn't have to be about killing things and taking their stuff, the guidelines here were a little too "eschew the rules, immerse yourself in your character" for me. I enjoyed the HHQ series (i.e. HHQ1 Fighter's Challenge, HHQ2 Wizard's Challenge, etc.), but "freestyle" felt like something else, what with it's lack of discussion about things like gaining XP, handling combat if it breaks out while a PC is alone, etc.

Unfortunately, the book misses more than it hits. The section on "types of players" felt like should have gone in the DMG or in DMGR1 Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide. The "Grand Tour" of AD&D campaign worlds felt pointless (if you were inclined to like those settings, the odds were you were already checking them out, and so didn't need to be sold; if you didn't like them, these overviews were unlikely to change your mind). And the chapter on the "medieval mindset" - while, again, not bad in terms of what it offered - felt like it should have been part of the Historical Reference series (which it never mentions).

It strikes me as fitting that this book has no introduction, preface, or foreword, because this book is a mishmash of ideas with very little in the way of a unifying theme beyond "non-standard campaigns." The blurb on the back is as good as it gets here, and while I'm aware that this is due to the book having several different authors, its lack of cohesiveness just feels like a lack of direction. It has just enough development that I can see how it could have been great if it had just been a little more focused.

As it is, Creative Campaigning is certainly creative; I just wish it had more follow through.

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