From: Spellbinder Games
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin
Dreadmire is an RPG supplement from Spellbinder Games.
This is an impressive work. The author states that it was a 10+ year endeavor and it shows. The sheer amount of information in this 224 page book is overwhelming. Just the word count is amazing. An 8×11 book with small text, even considering illustrations, maps and charts contains a lot of wordage. Be prepared to take some time to read though it.
From the back cover: “Dreadmire Swamp is the definitive reference book on adventure life and unlife in the swamp.”
While being described as a swamp source book, Dreadmire is much, much more. This is both everything you would want or need to know about playing D&D in a swamp environment and a campaign setting laid out for you to do so.
This is a hardcover book. The full color cover is good quality and glossy. The art at first glance may seem like it could be a little neater and cleaner but as you go through the book you may think of it as ‘old school’ as I did. This is the kind of art seen in older D&D and 2nd edition AD&D books. The internal pages of the book itself are all black and white. No color illustrations or maps. The maps themselves are well done for the most part. The paper feels like good quality and the book, if cared for, should last quite a while. The text is on the small side. Readers with vision problems may have a little trouble with it.
The book begins with a few maps, some history and descriptions of the swamp and area. The one thing I have issue with in this book is organization. It’s well laid out in a printed fashion but when reading through you find there are factions, races, division and other ‘boundaries’ that are described in the text in several places over the first few chapters but not denoted on any maps. The maps simply have the terrain type and names of towns, villages and such. This is where a little internal color could have made all the difference. A basic overlay or some other indication of which areas are human friendly, orc friendly, evil friendly, good friendly or insect friendly would be of great assistance. Significant and not so significant places and people are detailed well. However, the major characters and points of interest are listed independent of their places of residence so you have to flip around quite a bit to figure out who and what is where.
Having said that, the background is rich and detailed. Any problems the descriptive sections of this book might have are really just organizational. The author has obviously put a lot of work into this book and it shows. You can easily visualize the villages, forests, bogs and river deltas while reading through it. I would love to both run an adventure and play one with a group of Bayou Halflings as the party.
Over 250 new monsters are advertised on the back cover. Many of these are swamp variants of existing monsters. Most of those variants are quite interesting and a needed addition to the target area. Other new campaign centered creatures and more general use creatures are listed. Some of these could be modified to use as character races. Plants and undead are the most numerous additions as you may surmise. Many of the new plants are just given a description and no stat block. Swamps are dangerous places but any character made for this game should take a few ranks in Knowledge (Local Flora and Fauna). Many plants are poisonous. In some cases, that is the least of your worries. I believe there are a few plants listed with a low Challenge Rating that could cause a Total Party Kill.
Many new magic items and spells are provided. In this setting, they are called juju. Once again, there are quite a few that are items modified for a swampy environment but several new general items and spells are given that may be attractive to your average adventurer. Your average everyday magical weapons, armor, scrolls and miscellaneous items are mixed in with a few singular items of almost legendary status.
The new classes are by and large either swamp or campaign related. Muckrangers, Balladmongers, Moor knights and others populate the land along side ‘average’ warriors, commoners and day-to-day classes. Some of these classes are a bit ‘low powered’ and more of a support class. They are useful in the environment but probably not attractive to many power gamers.
Three adventures are provided. The low level ‘Great Bayou Halfling boat race’ is the best in my opinion. Some encounters are not fully fleshed out and left up to the imagination of the Game Master. The intermediate level Bog of the Fungus Demon and the advanced level Secrets of the Sinking Citadel have a few confusing encounters and can be exceptionally deadly.
From page # 205: “A swamp, bottomland forest, morass or quagmire generally refers to freshwater wetlands with trees and woody bushes that are seasonally flooded.”
The appendices of the book include a section about swamp ecology, the environments, dangers, weather patterns and generally all the information you might want or need to survive. If you are running a swamp based game, even if it is not Dreadmire, this is worth the read. A collection of charts, maps and more also give a nice collection of information all in one place.
In conclusion, while Dreadmire is an impressive work, a prospective Gamemaster will need to take extra time out to sort out and organize all the details. While written for D&D 3.5, this could easily be converted to Pathfinder’s D&D 3.75 system. I say easily but the person taking that task on is in for a lot of work considering the number of stat blocks, spells and other minor items that would need to be tweaked.
For more details on “Dreadmire” check out the website http://www.dreadmire.com. Please note that Spellbinder Games seems to be defunct and their web site non-existent. Copies of the games may be hard to find at your local gaming store but can be found online through links on the above web site.
Codex Rating: 15
From: Spellbinder Games
Type of Game: RPG sourcebook / campaign setting
Written by: Randy Richards
Game Design by: Randy Richards
Developed by: Mark Williams
Cover Art by: Zack Overton, Dan Howard and Janet Chui
Additional Art by: Hannah Spute, Paul Daly, Rick Hershey, J Scott Pittman, Gordon Grant and Octavirate Entertainment.
Number of Pages: 224
Original Retail Price: $29.95 US
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin