This massive compilation clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page foreword, 1 page advice on reading statblocks, leaving us with 155.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All right, so, on the half page that is left by the ToC, we get a handy list of random encounters by EL, as well as a list of statblocks by type, followed by a statblock by CR-list – this makes, obviously, navigation much smoother for the GM.
But what do we get exactly in this one? Well, for one, we have system neutral dressing tables collected within – 10 Atypical Caves, 10 Atypical Cavern Encounters, 12 Natural Cavern Hazards, 20 Pieces of Cavern Dressing and 20 Things to Find in a Purple Worm Stomach are included. Sound familiar? Yep, this is basically “20 Things: Dark Caverns.” Similarly, the dressing file for Fallen Dwarven Holds and Subterranean Mines are included herein. It should also be noted that the massive dressing table for Cave & Cavern dressing from the excellent original “Caves & Caverns”-book.
Speaking of this much-beloved classic: The book also provides the “Ebon Realm” section, which provides super-handy tables for travel times, through primary, secondary, tertiary tunnels, etc. This section also cover air quality, rules-relevant hazards and sidebars for skill use. We also cover variant cave-ins, illumination and the book includes notes on walls, obstructions, and more. Water, including flash floods, a sample cavern map (player-friendly) and a proper glossary would be provided. In short, this reproduces pretty much the gold-standard for making the basics of any cavern system stand out, feel alive…so if you don’t already own the original “Caves & Caverns” book, this pretty much warrants getting this book on its own. Speaking of the original book: A significant part of said tome was devoted to a plethora of rather excellent subterranean random encounters that went above and beyond in both set-up and how they’re prepared. They are fully statted, and where applicable, reproduce e.g. the underwater combat rules in a cheat-sheet style sidebar, making them convenient for the GM to run.
Beyond this book being basically the expanded iteration of a true classic, we also have the “Ancient Empire of the Troglodytes” supplement reproduced within, alongside the “Places of Power: The Midnight Market”-installment that features a neutral zone black market perched precariously atop a vast chasm in the realms below. Beyond these two files, we also have the entirety of the lamentably short-lived Subterranean Enclaves-series included: Severed Umbra, Deephearth, Fanghome, Dilath’s Hold, Mith’Varal. Wait…isn’t there something missing? Yep, oddly, the entire series is included, but Flenheim, the rather wicked derro enclave, oddly, seems to have been excluded from this book.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports quite a few amazing b/w-artworks. The book comes in 2 versions – one optimized for screen use, and one optimized for printing out. The pdf version comes with extensive, nested bookmarks that render navigation smooth and painless. Cartography, where applicable, is high-quality and b/w.
Creighton Broadhurst, Ron Calbick, Kalyna Conrad, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Brian Wiborg Mønster, David Posener, Alex Riggs, Mike Welham – this cadre of high-class authors provides a massive book here – one that goes above and beyond what you usually get to see from the Campaign Backdrops-series. In short: This not only provides some lavishly-detailed dressing files, collected for your convenience. Instead, it is easily one of the crunchiest books Raging Swan Press ever released, courtesy of the inclusion of the absolutely brilliant “Caves & Caverns.” The fact that this collects more than dressing files makes this behave essentially like an expanded and improved version of an already fantastic offering, so if you don’t have “Caves & Caverns” already, then get this ASAP. If you already have the constituent files, this may still be worth the price of admittance for you, particularly in print/if you’re like me and end up using such well-organized compilations more often than disparate pdfs/print-outs. My final verdict will thus clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this excellent compilation here on OBS!
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