Okay, this one is a lie, too. Sort of. Remember last time when I said that I would take this week to discuss games that we received for Christmas. Well, that’s not strictly true. I actually just pressed purchase on the D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been looking at the adventures to see if they will, in fact, be good to try to get the family to play D&D again.
If this all seems to have come out of left field, you’re not entirely wrong. I mean, if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have seen that I was searching for an appropriate adventure to try to get the family hooked on Dungeons and Dragons. I want to get a weekly session going, if possible. This led me to purchase The Lost Mine of Phandelver on D&D Beyond before realizing that was the adventure we tried to play last year from the beginner’s set. Oh well, WotC can use the cash, I’m sure.
Well, Facebook ads finally got me this time. I saw an ad for The Arcane Library and visited it. Rarely does this ever result in me purchasing anything. However, this time it did. First, I downloaded the free adventure to see if the writing was any good. It’s very well designed. More on that in the review, obviously. Then, I bought the bundle meant to follow characters from 1 until level 20, I think. There may be some gaps needed to fill. Not entirely sure on that one. However, I then saw the D&D horror bundles. As the lone hold out from the first time, I think Aiden will get a kick out of some horror RPG. Let’s see if I’m right.
Writing: This doesn’t come as a surprise now that I’ve read the author’s biography on the web page. She’s a former journalist and English teacher. Nevertheless, and this will come as rich from someone who hasn’t edited a single post on this web page in several years, it is good to find web based content that isn’t riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Especially in a D&D adventure, that takes you right out of the fiction.
Well Organized: Along with the good writing, the adventures follow the well established outline for adventures set by the official versions. Each adventure starts with a synopsis and some background. This is followed by some nuts and bolts to further explain. Each encounter flows smoothly, building a rich tapestry of the story. As I read, I saw how the encounters worked and, more importantly, how they worked together.
Minimalist: Piggy backing off that last point, the books contain only the information needed to continue the story. I feel like part of the reason our play session last year got bogged down was all of the reading necessary to run the adventure. As a DM, I try not to be a rules extremist when playing D&D, but I think I might have just been nervous. I really wanted my family to enjoy playing D&D with me. It just felt like a natural play group.
Horror: Granted, it is mostly up to me to set the proper mood. However, if you’re going to advertise an adventure as horror, there should obviously be the seeds of that horror in the adventure. These accomplish that quite nicely. I already said that I saw the story grow as I read the notes. The same can be said for the horror setting. These stories have great creep factor.
Story: This may seem strange given all the nice things I’ve already said. However, even as a criticism, please understand that this is minor. To be fair, it’s said that there are only 7 types of stories that can be told anyway. This may even be more limited in science fiction and fantasy settings. Even the official adventures are limited in their scope. Just know that these stories aren’t terribly original. But, they are still very good.
Not beginner friendly: Look, I also understand that if you are considering a non paying career as a D&D DM, you probably aren’t a beginner. With that being said, everyone gets their start somewhere. But, if you are getting your start as a DM, I wouldn’t recommend these adventures as your first campaign. They’re just so sparse in their notes for DMs.
The D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library are, overall, very good. The stories are compelling enough. They have a definite horror vibe, even just from reading through them. That can, obviously, be tuned to your individual play group. I don’t regret purchasing them or the other bundle one bit. Now, I just have to get my family to want to play them. Stay tuned for that.