Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review & Commentary On Demihuman Delvers, Volume 1 From Ivanhoe Unbound For OD&D, Swords & Wizardry, & Other Retroclone Campaigns

Ivanhoe Unbound is the brainchild of  Kirt Dankmyer & Abigail Hanley and almost close to the opening of 2015 they released Demihuman Delvers, a title that I've always been curious about but have never had the time to really look into. Until now, what this is title is basically is an expansion of the Swords & Wizardry demihuman races
Basically this pdf clocks in at twenty seven pages of optional races for your old school OD&D style games.There are some old favorites here including,  Gnomes, Half-Orcs, Half-Elves, but you also get access to Half-Ogres, Skulks, and the Uldra. Straight out of the gate this book scored points with me because of the Derro right there on the second entry in. These are the screwed up, insane, and highly dangerous murderers of the underworld. The entry on the Derro gives a pretty good idea of the sort of a set up we're going to see in Demihuman Delvers;
"Derro are a degenerate subspecies of dwarves, augmented and twisted by ancient dark magics. Their rough skin is white with bluish undertones and is spotted with short  tufts of coarse hair. Their hair is straight and tends to be tan or pale yellow. Their eyes are a uniform pale yellow in color and glow with a faint sickly yellow light, lacking in both iris and pupil. It is said by some that they were once a servitor race, but now they are slavers themselves, part of a culture of cruelty and greed deep underground. It’s their greed that sometimes drives them from their society into adventuring, a greed for magic and knowledge". This is followed by the twisted dwarf abilities, weaknesses, and more. This also includes an advancement table as well. This brings up a point about this book. Its as much a book  for the DM looking to add in a bit more flavor to his NPC monsters as its a book  to the players who are sick of playing the same old same old races during games. There are even half dyrad to fill out the ranks of player character fey races and the options continue from there. A note about organization, Ivanhoe Unbound doesn't waste space, this is a book that does a job and does it well. Namely filling in a niche for optional PC races that long time players of D&D are familiar with and suiting them to Swords and Wizardry and other retroclones in the OD&D mold.

Another thing about this product from Ivanhoe Ubound, this book feels like its talking to you as the reader. The writer is taking you into his confidence and explaining the 'ins and outs' for his own games and personal campaigns. Let's pick on the half dyrad again here's the author's own house rule for these beings.
House Rule: 'Fairies Wear Boots. The presentation above is meant to be similar to the one in Dragon #109.
Of course, in my own game, if a player wanted to play a male Half-Dryad, or some other gender, I’d allow it. I don’t see woodland fey being bound too tightly by traditional gender roles'
This sort of thing is sprinkled throughout the book and really brings home a sense in how to use these optional races and how to mold them for your own games. Its a nice touch and the voice of the author comes through on that front. I was even surprised to find the Half-Dwarf (Mhul) in the mix here. There are twenty one beings presented in this book and for two dollars you get a wide variety of both tradition and non traditional races to play with. This includes cat beings like the Sekhem who  are the descendants of a cat goddess and her favored priest, with the bodies of cats and the hands, height and minds of humans. This book has a wide smattering of races and options presented for the demihuman heavy dungeon masters. I've played with a few of them and the love of settings like Dark Sun, Planscape, Ravenloft and other second edition worlds.This  means that Planetouched, Aasimar and Planetouched, Tiefling are going to find their way into both Swords & Wizardry games as well as OD&D campaign worlds based on those second edition properties & settings. The house rule blurbs scattered throughout the book seem to try to present options for working these races into a sort of backhanded setting idea or two. The execution for this sort of thing varies but more often then not the author hits the nail on the head with his ideas.
Now with the fact that White Star has hit the market in a big way, and its based on Swords and Wizardry, this is a perfect resource to even out some of the races from back water or primitive worlds. This makes the more exotic races found in this book perfect for populating any number of White Star Worlds. A mix of these could easily represent a whole Federation like organization with lots of mixing and matching going on with another Ivanhoe Unbound product. In this case Five Year Mission is a perfect compliment to the material found in this book. You can read more of my thoughts on this subject on the link.
Many of the races found within Demihuman Delvers would also make excellent foils for a DM looking to create fast exotic alien traders or NPC's for their own games. The book adds just a bit more depth and ideas to keep a DM happy with some very solid footing in a Swords & Wizardry style of book.

Do I think that this is a perfect book? No there are several things about it that set it apart. The fact that  Demihuman Delvers highlights one of the problems with exotic demihumans;  the burden the book presents to the DM to shoehorn some of these races into their own campaigns can be down right problematic. Where to you stick the half giants and what is there relations to the humans, Elves, and Dwarfs. How do the Dwarves feel about the Muls and there are more. These burning questions are going to pull on a DM seeking to use both the traditional races and some of the racial options that this book brings to the table.That being said if your a Swords & Wizardry or D&D player who likes a challenge to play certain exotic D&D races or your a DM who wants to increase the PC creation options then Demihuman Delvers might be right for you!

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