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The Monster Overhaul
by AARON [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/21/2024 15:35:26

Simply put, this is my favorite Bestiary, ever. Every monster is an old favorite, but each one has been re-approached with a sense of flavor and design that feels under-developed in other books and better yet, all of the tools and flavor has been executed with GM agency in mind and ease of use.

This is true for Skerples other book as well, Magical Industrial Revolution but the formatting of Monster Overhaul is just a joy. Information is dense but readable, with nice thick margins meant for writing notes and leaving sticky notes. This is a book meant to be loved, and I do, so much.

I'm running an OSR campaign now, and the Monster Overhaul is the first book I refer to if I have something conventional in mind. Goblins? definitely need to look, there might be something good, there always is. Dragons? of course. Even when I want to run something like a bugbear, I'll flip to Orcs and see what this book has in mind.

The art is also some of my favorite in any book. each section seems to have a different artist and each artist has their own unique style but none of those styles betray the old school flavor of dungeon crawling. Every picture conveys a sense of mystery, danger, and curiosity. some of it's dirty, and some clean, but all of it is amazing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Monster Overhaul
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by Keith [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/20/2024 00:23:23

I really enjoyed playing this module. I was finally able to find a good DM online who had time to run this for me with 3 of his friends. We finished it tonight after 3 sessions for a total of about 10 hours. You could probably spend multiple times that amount if you wanted to unearth every secret. And while we didn't experience every aspect of the tomb, it was great exploring and working together with my party which is exactly what I was looking for!

Our DM added his own twists and content to the story, but on its own, it has traps, monsters, treasure, a boss, and some interesting lore about The Tomb of the Serpent Kings itself. Perfect!

I can't speak to the specific mechanics of the game or critique it like some seasoned connoisseur of RPGs; I just know I had fun playing it. Everyone else on my team was really impressed with it too.

I hadn't played D&D since the TSR Hobbies Red Box edition in 1983! For me, it was a nice return to a classic dungeon crawl. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
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Magical Industrial Revolution
by K25fF [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/14/2024 16:49:39

Absolutely incredible feat of worldbuilding and a capture of a city teetering on the precipice of a new (and potentially alarmingly short) age. The people of Endon careen toward their apocalypse with the absolute confidence of someone whose civilisation has never ended before.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magical Industrial Revolution
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The Monster Overhaul
by L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/21/2023 20:00:14

Full from page 1 to page The End with useful tables, monsters with stories and details that are helpful for running a game, any game. Big recommendations all round. Art from many excellent people only adds to the character of the book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Monster Overhaul
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Magical Industrial Revolution
by Bennett [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2023 07:06:12

What I thought I was getting was a pre-apocalyptic setting, of magical wonder where the lights were just about to go down. What I got was essentially a fairly standard British satire of Victorian London with almost nothing original about it (and I hadn't intended to buy a parody in the first place, let alone one with jokes older than Monty Python's routines). The apocalyptic issues were pretty stock and mundane, as well as taking up a very small section of the book, and they didn't feel well-integrated into the rest of Endon.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Magical Industrial Revolution
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The Monster Overhaul
by Christopher [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/02/2023 16:39:31

The best and most useful monster manual I've seen in decades.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Monster Overhaul
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The Monster Overhaul
by scott [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2023 15:44:51

magnificent! i regret i only have 5 stars to give, this book is vital for ttrpg play imo



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Monster Overhaul
by Haydon K. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/06/2023 22:29:47

An incredible resource! Mountains of monsters presented to spur the imagination and help out a DM in a tight spot.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Monster Overhaul
by Ryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/14/2023 18:06:10

The art is fantastic, the tables are so evocative and creative. The "how does the giant crab react" table is so good it makes me want to fit a giant crab into my next game. There are enough ideas in here that it is great reading as is.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Monster Overhaul
by Josh G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2023 19:31:16

Kickstarted this lil' critter and have really been looking forward to its release. I've been using the pre-final printing for some stocking ideas for my "dungeon 23". All around a great tool, broadly useful, but opinionated enough in it's decisions to avoid being a milquetoast kind of generic. One of the few monster books that covers the entire "generic fantasy rpg" gamut, while being actually a useful tool.

To make best use of it you will probably want to be playing a Dungeons and Dragons style game, but I think even if you're running something like a pulp or sci-fantasty type game you'll be able to get mileage out of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by CHRISTOPHER W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/01/2023 10:16:29

Just a really bad adventure. I'll go into more detail later, but this is NOT an adventure for beginners, both beginning players and especially beginning DMs. Large parts of it are boring and give no hints or telegraph that there are secrets; the players are just expected to "read the DM's mind" to find the secret. As far as DMing goes, there are several room descriptions and traps that just don't make sense and that the DM will have to fix beforehand. It does an active disservice to the OSR hobby by advertising itself as a teaching dungeon. And there's no illustration or description of what a snake-person looks like! What?? The only nod to that is the lich which has a snake bottom and a human top, which is exactly the opposite of what I was thinking the snake-people looked like. Seriously, this is not a fun adventure and it's not fun to DM. Mine it for the barred-door-and-hammer trap, but it's so sparse, mistake-filled, and full of holes that you should really avoid DMing this one. If this is the fourth time the author has tried to fix this adventure, they need to chuck it.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by Arno H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/24/2022 00:01:07

Great beginners guide to old school adventuring. This one is already a classic.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by Leon K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2022 13:22:11

I'm a DM who's very new to OSR games and this adventure seems so perfect both for me and my players!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by Michael E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2022 08:53:30

Tomb of the Serpent Kings opens with a blurb about the need for a good tutorial for OSR-style play, drawing an allusion to the self-explanatory nature of World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. As the players begin the dungeon, they are immediately faced with an example of this brand of tutorialization: after a few seemingly uninteresting terra-cotta snakemen, the players come across a clay statue with a silver ring – a ring that can only be pried from the statue's finger by breaking the statue entirely, and, in the process, unleashing a cloud of poison gas and revealing yet more treasure hidden inside the hollow shell. The players prompty revisit the other terra-cotta tombs, this time taking steps to avoid the poison, and being rewarded with additional hidden treasures. And so they learn their first lessons, about hidden treasure, hidden traps, and the patterns that will allow them to discover both.

It's also their last lesson, because everything else in the dungeon is completely obtuse. Most other "lessons" outlined in the book are not telegraphed to the players in any meaningful way, and would-be patterns are applied inconsistently so as to preclude any possibility of the players noticing them. Case in point: the silver ring that the players obtain from that first clay statue gives them a poison-damage attack, which is completely useless against the undead, constructs, and oozes that are the only enemies in the first two floors of the dungeon. By the time the players encounter an enemy that they can actually use this attack against, they may well have forgotten that it even exists.

The clay statues appear again later, but this time they are part of an unrelated "statues are placed over secret doors" pattern, and so they don't feature poison traps or treasure. As a result, this room undermines the sole previously successful lesson, leading the players to actively distrust apparent patterns.

A substantial trove of treasure is hidden at the bottom of an opaque pit full of toxic water – with no indication of anything of value, and no way for the players to later learn that they missed anything. It's fair enough to expect "danger = treasure" if you're a seasoned dungeoneer, but the pattern up to this point is instead "treasure is fairly slim, regardless of the extent of the danger", and so this lesson is completely lost on new players.

An early-on deadly trap (almost certain to kill someone who isn't expecting it – quite harsh for a "tutorial" level) is placed next to a combat encounter in the hopes that the players will use it against those foes, and learn about exploiting the environment. Problem is, the trap operates on a delayed trigger that depends on hefting heavy objects to set and activate – so it's tricky at best to get it to actually fire off in a way that successfully hurts those enemies. Players end up taking the exact opposite lesson: that traps are designed just for them, and that they're not meant to be used against the monsters.

A very detailed encounter with a basilisk features some clever and surprising solutions with fun rewards – but by the time the players encounter it, the only things they'll have seen and fought will have been mindless undead, and so they won't have it in mind to try to deal with the basilisk as a living creature with real needs. Worse still, the actual materials necessary to deal with the basilisk in a creative way aren't provided to the players until much later in the dungeon, so again, they have forgotten about it by then, and don't make the connection. Fine enough for a seasoned group – they should know better. But for a neophyte party? These are precisely the ideas that need to be spelled out, and instead they're actively obfuscated.

These are just a few stand-out examples from my runs with TotSK, but the dungeon is absolutely rife with failed or even counter-productive "lessons". When I've had occasion to debrief with my players, they would often complain about the fact that they actually clued in to many of the "lessons", only for their ideas to fail because the dungeon appears to be specifically designed to frustrated, rather than reinforce, those ideas. I can't imagine a worse condemnation of a tutorial than having a smart player correctly figure out what they're supposed to do, and then have the dungeon tell them they are wrong and should re-think it.

As a standard OSR dungeon for experienced players, I think Tomb of the Serpent Kings is basically a "C+". It's more or less solid, but with a lot of weird and unnecessary flaws: The attempt to act as a tutorial results in the dungeon being a little too straightforward in ways that a more seasoned group may find boring. The descriptions of certain specifics in the dungeon are often inadequate in ways that will force the GM to make up new material to fill in the gaps. Some important details get split off into different portions of the book with no internal cross-referencing, so you may find yourself accidentally skipping info that the players ought to know. The touted compatibility is actually very poor – I had to spend several hours scouring the book in order to convert it to my system of choice – TotSK makes assumptions about all sorts of mechanics that didn't exist in said system, so I had to invent a few workarounds from whole cloth in order to get the encounters to actually manifest properly.

The biggest problem with TotSK, by far, is the fact that if it's measured as an actual tutorial, in the vein of SMB World 1-1, it's an abject failure. It doesn't teach. It expects the players to already know the lessons, instead, which makes the "teaching" totally redundant. Sometimes, the dungeon will punish the players for not knowing a lesson in advance, which allows them to learn it retroactively (although whether or not they get another opportunity to apply each lesson later on is very hit-or-miss), but more often than not it won't even alert them to the fact that they missed something or made a mistake. It's not a guiding hand that introduces, reinforces, and then tests key lessons – it's more like a sheer cliff with no purchase.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Tomb of the Serpent Kings - Deluxe Print Edition
by Brian E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2022 20:54:23

The Tomb of the Serpent Kings is my current first choice to recommend for a new Dungeon Master and/or group of new Dungeons & Dragons players. We ran it with Old School Essentials and had a great time. Players will get to experience open-ended dungeon exploration and solving problems with their minds rather than rolling. Its dangers are fair and encourage interaction. When you are confronted with a dangerous environment in a roleplaying game you must put yourself in the scene in order to think your way through it. This makes the scene immersive and gets at the heart of roleplaying. Players will need to make decisions, which is a great first experience for a new player of a roleplaying game.

As other reviews have said, it is also a good introduction to open-ended play for experienced players and referees who might be accustomed to campaigns with less player agency, exploration or problem-solving. It's easy to prepare and run and will probably only take two to three sessions. I would recommended the Tomb of the Serpent Kings to most D&D groups. I'd recommend playing it with Basic D&D or other early editions of D&D or retroclones like Old School Essentials (which is what I would recommend if you haven't played any editions from the 1970s or 1980s before, plus you only need the free basic rules available on Necrotic Gnome's website).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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