I'll just cut to the chase, if you don't have Barrowmaze by Greg Gillespie yet then buy it now. It's absolutely amazing. In fact, it's spectacular, if it was a woman I think I just might marry it. So in lieu of a review of my new favorite OSR module I'm going to do a simple list of pros and cons.
- New magic items, monsters and spells. Normally this might not be a plus for me but these follow the rule less is more. They make sense and are implemented well.
- Compatible with anything with a small bit of tweaking.
- As a change of pace this is not the typical multi-level dungeon but more of a large very spread out dungeon. A nice feature that, with the setting, helps differentiate the dungeon.
- Random tables to help flesh out and dress the dungeon. A table for "re-stocking" the dungeon.
- Interesting and effective usage of time in the dungeon. Notes on time are given for random monster checks, searching rooms and alcoves and other time sensitive actions.
- Great risk and reward considerations are constantly presented to the player. For example, is the noise caused by knocking down a burial chamber wall and the risk of discovery worth the potential gain?
- The dungeon feels alive. The use of time, noise, dungeon re-stocks and different factions of monsters/opponents all contribute to an organic, ever changing dungeon environment.
- Definite old school difficulty curve. The back even states, "Don't forget the 10 foot pole."
- Amazing old school style art full of homages and implied narrative, take a look at that shield on the cover. Where have you seen that before?
- At 300 "rooms" it is large enough to be used as a "megadungeon" but it is also easily broken down into smaller sections.
- Clear and concise but with enough details to give the DM a guideline while still allowing creativity and spontaneity.
- Blue maps! Always a plus for me, I know, I know, I'm a sucker for anything old school.
- Pre-rolled characters and character sheets.
- A hireling named Patsy. Genius.
- It costs $6.66. Awesome.
- I am not partial to the square font used for the letters and numbers to label the dungeon. I found it a little difficult to read.
- I would have liked to have seen a full fledged town with buildings, residents and some backstory built in. I know this is being a tad greedy but I want it anyway because I loved the rest of the package so much.
- Only available in PDF form presently. According to the author a print version should be available for purchase very soon.
- I feel anger and resentment at Greg Gillespie because he made the dungeon I always wanted to create. This, in turn, makes me feel like a bad person.
Barrowmaze is a labor of love that manages to combine fresh new ideas with old school sensibilities in surprising and fantastic ways. A ton of content is included for a very fair price (in fact, the author has submitted even more artwork that will be availible in the print version and via update for the PDF). At times some OSR products, especially modules, can seem a bit like a money grab, Barrowmaze is definitely not in this category and in fact, sets the new gold standard for excellence in the category.