Sunday, January 10, 2016

Retro - Review & Commentary On Garden of the Plantmaster By Robert Kuntz For Advanced Dungeons And Dragons First Edition Game & Your Old School Campaigns

Whist going over my email tonight someone requested Garden of the Plantmaster, which was published in Eighty Seven. This is both an adventure and source book with some very interesting ideas within its pages. The book comes from my archives and was given to me many years ago by the owner of Dragon's Lair in West Hartford Connecticut.
The byline from the adventure reveals exactly what's inside;""...Among the various source material presented herein is: ? An essay on HOW TO CREATE AND STOCK A FANTASTIC GARDEN! ? Over 20 new monsters! ? Over 60 pregenerated wandering encounters! ? EXTENSIVE GM INFORMATION ON: * Flowers, (Poisonous, Spore Shooters, et al.) * Vines (Metallic, Shockers, etc.) * Insects * Vegetables/Fruits * Herbs and Spices * Fungi * Scrolls (Leaf, Bark, Flower, Petal, etc.) ? Four Appendices, including GARDEN DRESSING, which lists: * Attributes (beneficial and detrimental) * Vines (20 types to expand with) * Flowers and Their Meanings (Over 150 listed!) * Insectivorous Plants * Shrubs * Fungi (additional information and types) * Terms/Words Common To Flora * Trees * Insects (expanded) * Terms of Multitude * 3 glossaries (fungi, trees and shrubs, insects) * Uses for Herbs""
 The adventure is very carefully laid out bit by bit and gives a DM an entire alien world and garden within its pages. Much of the material here is very well done and lots of imagination as well as early Eighties style are evident right out of the gate. Robert J Kuntz was inspired by Clark Aston Smith. Specifically "Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Garden of Adompha” and the “Maze of Maal Dweb.” setting ideas and story DNA are scattered throughout the source book.
 The book presents a micro setting and almost a complete set of adventure campaign guidelines on the set up and care of their own version of a magical garden. Robert J. Kuntz really sets the tone for an alien environment and there are lots of weird and wonderful pieces of old school science fantasy scattered throughout the source book part of it. There's a complete alien eco system and the depiction of the garden makes the place seem to teem with life.
 The nice part of this adventure is the fact that not only does it include twenty new monsters but it expects the dungeon master to actually think his way through to draw details and motivations for the PC's to deal with all of the ins and outs of the adventure location. This is a perfect adventure to add into a science fantasy campaign. The Garden of the Plantmaster would be perfectly suited for game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dark Albion. The plant demon has created a perfect hellish world of its own.
 The encounters are very dangerous and the monsters are very well thought out, this book really does hearken back to another time in Advanced Dungeons and Dragon's history. DM should pay attention to the fact that this adventure module is make for characters levels six through twelve. Even upper level PC's are going to have a bit of a hard time with some of the weird and dangerous alien monsters.
 Encounters are dangerous, alien and can be surprisingly dangerous as the entire location teams with life. The artwork for Garden of the Plantmaster is very old school and somehow fits the product but I've seen other reviews not liking it. The sword and sorcery vibe is very strong and I can see using this product with Lamentations of the Flame Princess as a side mini campaign. Because of the pulpy sword and sorcery vibe I think this one works better as a one off location or mini world for a game of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. But lots of level adjustments might need to be made. But this could work surprisingly well as an isolated location for some ancient sorcerous adventure location where the wood demon has done his twisted best.
 Perhaps I'm prejudiced but with the right DM this adventure can really come to life and the fact that it doubles as a sourcebook shows the utility of the product. The Garden of the Plant Master reminds me of Gavin Norman's The Complete Vivimancer and I think that the Garden of the Planet master is good fit for that style of PC. A party containing such a twisted wizard is going to be right at home in the garden's environs. They would be perfectly at home in such a location perhaps taking samples of local fauna and flora. 
 There are lots of new items and material in the Garden of the Plant Master and its layout is surprisingly easy on the eye. The map at the back of the book however does leave a lot to be desired but there is a color version of the map that is a must for those looking to run it.
 Garden of the Plantmaster was originally published in 1987 as part of Kuntz’s Kalibruhn setting, its completed form was moved to Kuntz's Lost City of the Elders and closely tied to Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure.
 Not to be reduntant but its got everything you need to run it right out the gate between its covers. The hook to get the characters to the world of the Plantmaster is a vision and then the PC's are whisked away to the alien world of the Garden. There are certain parts that are completely fleshed out and yet plenty of  room for D&D DYI here in this adventure.
 There's something to be said for the way Garden of the Plantmaster handles its monsters. A read through the monsters, magic section and more gives the impression that the Garden of the Plantmaster is only the tip of the ice burg. A sense of cosmic dread seems to hang over the adventure at times. The whole adventure has a completely alien quality about it.
 The only thing I didn't like was the damn map but the color version of this map is much, much, easier to read.
 The monsters are easily converted over to AD&D 1st edition in a snap and the material fits in with the elaborate monster encounters. Many of the monsters fit straight into a gonzo style old school adventure or two. Love the sourcebook's take on fungus, plants, and even its insects.
 All in all I think that Garden of the Plantmaster in the hands of the right dungeon master could really come to life. There's plenty of monster sourcebooks out there but Garden has some damn nice tools and fun material to play with. The game adventure is well put together and quite useful for a DM looking for something different, Used copies are still relatively reasonable and because this adventure clocks in at seventy one pages there's plenty here to keep PC's busy for extended sessions of play.
 I can see using Garden of the Plantmaster as a prime sword and sorcery dark fairy tale adventure and campaign setting with plenty of potential for reuse again and again,

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