Third Party D&D: Rise of the Drow (Collector’s Edition) – (AAW Games)

Getting your hands on a new D&D supplement is always a good feeling. But getting your hands on one that you’ve been pining for feels even better. I know this because for quite some time I’ve had my eye on Rise of the Drow (Collector’s Edition) by AAW games. If you read my D&D reviews with any regularity, you may be wondering why it took me so long to to get my hands on a copy of this book. After all, it’s been out for over three years and I usually move pretty fast when it comes to my collection. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that price was a big factor in my delay. This book typically sells for over $120! That’s a lot for a single D&D-related release! It’s certainly more than I’m comfortable spending on myself. Thankfully, my wife knew how much I wanted it and surprised me with a copy for my birthday this year. Without her doing so, I doubt I’d writing this review now.

The high price tag is one of the first things people usually notice about this book. But, having now had the chance to dive into the contents, I can tell you that it’s worth every penny. Rise of the Drow (Collector’s Edition) is both a compilation and revision of a classic Pathfinder adventure series. A little over ten years ago, a website called adventureaweek.com was created by a number of tabletop game designers. Their idea was to release TTRPG adventures on a weekly basis. Out of all of these adventures, a trilogy called Rise of the Drow for the Pathfinder system became their best seller. This book combines the three original Rise of the Drow adventures, the Rise of the Drow Player’s Guide, and the optional prologue and epilogue adventure content into one giant tome – complete with a conversion to 5E and a handful of new additions as well!

The main adventure modules will take players from levels 1-15 (and even potentially up to level 20 if players pursue optional content) – with this in mind, it’s easy to see that this book is a full-fledged campaign. The adventure is described as taking place in a gameworld called Aventyr (this is the custom campaign setting of AAW Games), but it is easy enough to adapt this to nearly any existing gameworld. The game starts with the players being present in a city surrounded by vast mountains. During the course of their visit, the city is raided by a band of Drow who emerge from the nearby mountain caverns. This hook sets the players on a course that eventually leads them deep into the vast Underdark…

The adventure portion of the book is pretty well done. The formatting is clear and concise and the story is both fun and engaging. I’ve not run this adventure yet, myself. But, just from browsing through it, some portions of it do feel a bit combat heavy in places. I’m sure this harkens back to the adventure’s original Pathfinder roots. So, if you’ve only cut your teeth on modern 5E releases from WotC, you may be surprised by the amount of combat this book throws at players. Even so, players who have never experienced adventuring in the Underdark are sure the enjoy both the plotline and the environment that provided in this mega-module.

As I mentioned above, the adventure is great. But for me, the real value in this book comes mainly from all of the supplemental material. The Rise of the Drow adventure takes up the first 168 pages. The remaining 376 consist of fine details on everything from the campaign setting to new magical items, spells, and monsters. This section of the book is filled with maps, details on NPCs, shops, taverns, factions – you name it. Of course, all of this is specific to the Aventyr setting, but adapting it wouldn’t take much effort at all. This is especially true once you get into the Underdark material.

A big portion of the supplemental material is dedicated to the bestiary. Many of the monsters that appear here are reprints or revisions of classic 5E monsters that can be found in the Monster Manual. But, there are also plenty of new and unique monsters included as well. Often times, people tend to complain about products like these containing reprinted information. But, I personally have no issues with it. Having classic monsters included in this book just means that I have to bring one less book to the table with me when I DM.

For me, there’s just something about the Underdark that conjures up that old school 1E feel that I often crave. This book does a great job delivering on that vibe. For this reason alone, I find Rise of the Drow to be a stellar product. Yes, the pricetag is steep. But when you consider everything that’s crammed into this book, you really do get what you pay for. If you’re on the fence when it comes to this release, don’t hesitate.

 

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Old Game Hermit

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