9/04/2015

Frugal GM Review: Book of Lairs

Frugal GM Review: Book of Lairs
This week I wanted to take a closer look at Simon Forster's "The Book of Lairs", a project I had been following as one of his Patrons. The finished book is available now on DriveThruRPG and is a pretty good deal for a soft-cover and watermarked PDF for only $12.22

Even though I have a Patron PDF I'm sorely tempted to buy a print copy for my files, but I'll stick with the PDF....for now. It is my Patron copy I'm specifically reviewing, so I know there might be some minor differences, such as a watermarked PDF in the retail version vs. my "clean" copy.

The Book of Lairs is "ACKS Compatible" and was written with this system in mind, but with my not knowing anything about ACKS, I didn't really see anything that stood out as an impediment with the stats or layout. My gut says you wouldn't need to really figure any conversion on the fly for your standard OSR game....odds are you'd read not what was written down, but what it needed to be. A good portion of the monsters might already be in your game system of choice already.

I really liked the.....for lack of a better word..."crude" art of the lairs. The lair drawings are great and Simon could have cleaned everything up and painted it in Photoshop (or the like), but hand coloring in the lairs gives the book a nice personal touch that I really enjoyed. The color isn't excessively deep (i.e. printer ink overload) and the effect really makes the artwork "pop". I did a test-print of a page on my black & white printer.....nope, this really needs to be seen/used in color.

Book of Lairs Unique Table of Contents
Table of Contents
There are a number of new monsters, six to be exact, and The Book of Lairs flows alphabetically from Ankheg to Zombie. The table of contents in my PDF is a bit haphazard in that the page numbers aren't listed and they are layed out graphically. You can see this in the free preview. The table of contents is basically a two-page map with circles for each entry marked like "M is for Mummy". I'm thinking the page numbers were supposed to be in the center of each circle, but got skipped accidentally. On the PDF this really isn't an issue because each of those circles is a hotlink and there is a full list of bookmarks.

This table of contents is the biggest single issue I had with the book and as far as a PDF goes, not having page numbers is really a non-issue. If I was reviewing a physical book the lack of page numbers (on the table of contents or the pages themselves) would be a big deal.

There are a couple of minor issues I've found with the PDF, but they fall into the nit-picky and I'm looking for them categories. I will list them here only for the sake of helping Simon put out an even better product next time. The bookmarks in the PDF aren't standard. Some are capitalized while the majority aren't. The new monsters generally have two bookmark entries, one for the lair and one for the monster write-up. They should be distinguished from each other (i.e. both bookmarks for the "I" lair simply read "Imp"). Lastly, as far as the bookmarks go, several entries have some needless punctuation in them.

The scanned art for the book is pretty good, but some of the pages needed to be cleaned up more. For example the Wraith lair has some extra markings along what would be the spine of the book. You can also see the edge of the scanned page on some of the illustrations, like on the Jabberling and the Xiang Yao.

Frugal GM 5 Star Review: Book of Lairs
I don't see an editor listed for this book and I'm of the opinion that a second set of eyes might have caught these small issues before the PDF was "finished". I'll freely admit I don't use an editor for 90% of what I put together, but this book is also a helluva lot nicer than what I usually do. If this was a product from some big publisher I know I'd knock it down a star, but I feel comfortable rating this book where I have.

Overall I think The Book of Lairs is a product that would find a good home at most GM's table and would work really well when you just need to insert one more encounter for the night.