A couple weeks ago Frog God games mailed out their "bonus" book for the "Sword of Air" Kickstarter, "Bill Webbs' Book of Dirty Tricks". Took a quick look through last week it last week and thought I'd do a little review. Enjoyed the first half on Bill Webbs house rules, thought the concept of NOT having your chance to hit improve with level something to think about. Doing rather than rolling dice is another good piece of avice. Not as enamored of the second half of the book. Bill admiration of the Tomb of Horrors is perhaps the tip-off. Like that Gygaxian classic knowledge of the DM who wrote it is necessary to survival. I think one of tells of this is the story he tells of one of his long time players withdrawing from the convention run of Bills campaign, when he found out Bill's eleven year old daughter would not be playing. A section by section assessment of the tricks below.
Players got too much money: his tricks here seem as arbitrary and capricious means of correcting mistakes made by the DM earlier in the campaign. With castles to build and uber magic items to negotiate for, I have seldom run into a campaign where this was an actual problem.
Situational Advantage: solid but nothing spectacular (unless you like skunks).
Time Wasters: Really!? My players waste enough time already.
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Some good ideas here, some not so good. The kobolds with toys has been one of my trade marks. The unkillable monster always leaves a bad taste in players mouths (especially the Dung monster ;) ) so i don't use it.
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Like the kobold with the glowing staff concept. Illusions are very much overused, and lead to the question of who had enough magic power that he could afford to waste it on this stuff.
Trickery: Mostly very much my style. I would avoid the melting lock unless you are absolutely certain the party can make the required check easily (having the prize snatched away or further adventuring progress blocked just because someone rolled a 1 is no fun).
Greed is Bad!: Most of these tricks are overused and highly demotivating. If you like the party tapping on floors and pitching coppers to the far side of the room for a half hour FOR EVERY ROOM use these. My time available for roleplaying no longer allows for such activities.
As bonus for contributing the kickstarter I do not feel cheated by this product, however I would probably not pay the $10.95 cover price for it (I might buy a $3.00 .pdf). Most of the tricks are just not my style and I have seen way too many of them before. I did like the box tips explaining how to use the tricks in pathfinder.
P.S I have expressed my dislike for the "Tomb of Horrors" several times on this blog before. A dungeon filled with limitless magical death traps, seems to both capricious and unfair. However, I remember an interesting post a few years back on Gary's purpose for writing, as well as Rob Kuntz's "Robilar" successful navigation of said tomb (see Creative Origins on this wiki several forum thread [for those more dedicated to than me] on the subject as well). Once I read that I understood its true purpose, but think an intimate acquaintance with Gary's style and some metagaming is required for survival.
*** Update *** P.P.S. Check this link out for comments from Gary himself on the Tomb of Horrors