Barrowmaze II

by Greg Gillespie
Labyrinth Lord
Mid-High Levels

Hidden in Barrowmaze for centuries, the dark power of The Tablet of Chaos has called the dead to rise from their graves. Nergal’s unholy relic must be destroyed but few have explored deep enough (or lived long enough) to reach it. Can you survive the long dark of Barrowmaze and destroy The Tablet of Chaos?

It’s good, but not as good as the first one. Still worth having.

Barrowmaze is a giant dungeon. Unlike most traditional dungeons is doesn’t have multiple levels; it sprawls out over one level. Hmmm, maybe that should be two levels if the surface is counted. While the original Barrowmaze detailed about 16 barrows on the surface this sequel expands this to fifty, and includes rules for generating more. This allows for a MASSIVE barrowfield above the dungeon complex. This also allows for the inclusion of multiple entrances. Several of the mounds have separate entrances to the dungeon. Multiple entrances are absolutely crucial for a large dungeon. Without them the episodic nature of the dungeon is sundered and the players loose the ability to skip over sections and be enthralled by the mysterious new place they have descended in to. The maps proper are nicely done with a decent amount of loops and detail. Pits, columns, statues, secret doors, bricked up doors, same-level stairs, pools, oddly shaped rooms, etc, all add to the variety of the dungeon.

There’s a decent number of factions in the dungeon. These range from two competing priesthoods, the original priesthood and mongrelmen slaves. There’s also a small army of other individuals and groups running around. Harpy packs, gargoyle packs, intelligent “good” undead, and others all combine to allow for a decent amount of role-playing in the dungeon and break up the hacking. There’s also a good variety to the mundane treasure with lots of details on the goodies to be gained, as well as a decent amount of variety in the magical treasure. There are STILL too many “+2 longsword” type items in the dungeon but there do seem to be more “with a lion crest on it” or “+2/+3 vs chaos” magical items in the dungeon. Things do occasionally go weirder, such as using the contents of canopic jars for medicinal purposes/healing or the wide variety of rune stones, amulets, and death masks available to find. The mini-rules expansions for breaking down walls, searching catacomb niches and others add a decent amount of variety to the adventure and give it its own flavor that the players should remember for quite some time. There’s also a wide variety of new monsters, just as there was in Barrowmaze 1, to confound and challenge your players.

What’s missing seems to be in the individual encounters. The first installment had a certain … joie de vie? in the encounters that this one seems to be missing. The encounters and room description in 1 seemed to be shorter with a certain ‘naturalistic’ flair. There were signs of other people having explored the tombs. Dead adventurers. Some of the monsters encountered were in the act of doing things. That doesn’t come through very well in this sequel. There’s an encounter or two that buck this trend but for the most part it’s just undead in tombs that attack or attack when their tomb is looted. That’s a bit disappointing. Those encounters really helped bring the first module to life and added extra dimensions to it. It felt like a real place. This one feels a bit more like ‘just another dungeon.’

This is available on DriveThru.

This entry was posted in Level 5, No Regerts, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Barrowmaze II

  1. Greg Gillespie says:

    Interesting perspective. One, of course, that I disagree with. There are a number of themes specifically pulled from I into II. Barrowmaze I was the model for II so I’m a bit surprised you liked one but not the other. They were created using the same methods. I think the art is certainly worthy of some discussion. The factions are fleshed out and more prominent and they aren’t undead focused. I do appreciate the review, however.

  2. Greg Gillespie says:

    No worries 🙂

  3. Ynas Midgard says:

    I liked this one, too, although I haven’t actually seen it in play. The fleshed-out factions were a great plus for me; otherwise, yeah, it’s very similar to BM1.

  4. Bill says:

    Has anyone.out there played or run this through and want to bs about it? Maybe on Google + ?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am thinking about using barrowmaze complete ( 1 and 2 together). But only using the map and key from barrowmaze 1 (with the exception of an added room for the tablet and big bad).
    The additional barrows will be added to the surface and the factions added to the random encounter table.
    Anybody done this? What problems will I run into?

  6. markuscz says:

    You could do that but why would you? Barrowmaze is honestly a better dungeon in its entirety. The second part adds a larger, more nonlinear map and, above all, several factions. And you really want those. Speaking from experience, Barrowmaze can get a bit bland until you encounter those factions and start playing with their intrigue, enmity etc.

    Just putting the factions in random enounter tables doesn’t cut it. They need to have a base so you can visit them, talk to them, sneak into their bases to rob them, assault their HQ, spy on them (they generally hate each other but don’t know where the other factions are located) etc. You can’t do that without the map.

    • markuscz says:

      Why do you want to skip the second part of the map? Bigger is better in this case. Unless you want to “complete” the thing, which I would advise against (it will get boring eventually).

    • Anonymous says:

      Bryce says part two is worse though? He even said part 1 feels complete. Why do you feel different ?

      • markuscz says:

        Bryce has the second part as “no regrets”, which is still good. I do think the larger version of Barrowmaze has some weaker bits. Too many crypts and undead may get repetitive. There are some more linear parts in the second map (basically, series of “challenge” rooms) but the factions really add so much. Plus your players can choose where to go and what to do, which gets better on a larger map with more exits.

      • markuscz says:

        The real issue with the bigger version of Barrowmaze is that it may get too unwieldy. Too big to comprehend, and lacking in overviews. Also maybe too big to actually play through. If you want a shorter, more focused experience, the first part could be ok.

        In any case, a tip: i don’t think you can read all of it in advance but do try to read at least the parts with bolded text. It’s a good way to see the important rooms and skim the rest.

  7. markuscz says:

    (Replying to Anonymous above – need to post a separate thread, the comment plugin is bonkers and gets broken when it gets too small)

    You won’t fit them into empty rooms, the HQs are larger complexes. But you know what? If you have the whole Barrowmaze, who don’t you just take the big map and “delete” the parts that you don’t want? They can actualy be easily disconnected (they are basically cells connected only in few places).
    The HQs of two of the factions (mongrelmen and necromancer) actually directly adjoin the Barrowmaze I map so you could perhaps take just these and ignore the rest of the BMII map. And you’d have at least some faction play in BMI without the added baggade of the three times bigger map.

    • Anonymous says:

      I really like this idea, thank you

      • Anonymous says:

        You seem to know a lot about this module! Do you happen to know the room numbers you mentioned above?

        Any other rooms that are needed for environmental or story reasons? One that stuck out to me was the room with the big bad and the tablet

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