Review of the Perilous Wilds

Summary

A wonderful asset for fantasy gaming. While made for Dungeon World, its lists of tables and tools would be useful for any game system. It is well written, beautifully illustrated, lovingly laid out and the typography is top-notch. I fully recommend it, especially to Dungeon World and OSR gamers.

Detailed Review

Please note that I’m already quite a fan of the author’s previous works. His Funnel World and Servants of the Cinder Queen are fantastic, not only as gaming material but as great examples of well-thought out production values. The people at Lampblack and Brimstone publishing take a great deal of care making sure that their books are both aesthetically pleasing and usable. It was difficult for me to stay away from this Kickstarter.

As with their other works, the text is very easy to read and scan, the artwork is pleasing to the eye and relevant to the subject matter (never distracting). There’s a good mix of humour and seriousness in this book: adventuring is indeed perilous and grim, even though the artwork is often charmingly whimsical.

Anyway besides a few other goodies (incredibly usable and pretty maps and hireling cards) here are some of the main booklets (which are all digest-sized):

The Perilous Wilds

I received a hard copy from the kickstarter. It’s about 71 pages with black and white illustrations. The print version has nice, cream-coloured paper.

Contained within are handy, well-structured rules for creating a campaign setting. While it does borrow some terms from Dungeon World, it has added some new ones as well (so this book is not redundant at all; it adds a hell of a lot). Going from big to small, it includes a simple method to create a huge area with everyone at the table, collaboratively. This appeals to me greatly because my Game Mastering style revolves around feeding off of my players’ ideas. Well, it’s less work too, ha ha. No seriously: my current D&D campaign has been a breeze because I hardly needed to do any prep work at all. The players have unintentionally created their own worst enemies, hazardous places and dangerous beasts. I just make up the stuff behind each door that they choose to open.

I’ve used a similar method for map creation before. The one I used was a combination of A Quiet Year and Beyond the Wall (both of which are great games, by the way). But I like the way that the Perilous Wilds gathers all of these methods together into one nice package. I have a feeling that this book will be an asset to me for years.

There are some fantastic lists of names for people and places: some of these have been inspired by some really neat sounding cultures (for example, Finland, Hungary, Indonesia and Yoruba). Original and multicultural. Very, very cool.

There are also plenty of Moves to make Exploration and Travel have more grit and detail, as well as fully fleshed out rules for creating and hiring Followers (as well as giving them a bit more life than just being bundles of Tags) and even some monster and dungeon creation tables. Again, most of these are system-agnostic, so they’ll be useful to DIY-style Game Masters (i.e., this book will sit alongside Yoon Suin and Vornheim on my bookshelf).

There’s plenty more in this book than I’m covering, but I don’t want to spoil it for other readers. Part of the fun of this book is turning the page to find another delightful resource.

One of Vandel's fantastic maps.
One of Vandel’s fantastic maps.

A Book of Beasts

I also received a hard copy of this one (it was a bonus, thanks to a stretch goal).

This 32-page booklet details 56 monsters grouped by rough climate types, terrain types and then by lethality (from weakest to strongest). This organization is elegant and efficient: turn to any page spread and it will feature 4 complete stat blocks of creatures from a specific climate and terrain. It’s almost mind-blowing in it’s perfect simplicity.

The artwork is great: reminiscent of other published works by this publisher, but some of the them reminded me heavily of the 1st edition Advanced D&D Monster Manual and Fiend Folio. They’re all black and white line art (no grey scale) and so they all feel consistent and part of the same package, even if they’re by several different artists. The art direction is great.

The beasties themselves are great: weird, funny or grotesque. Even the ones with the most standard or typical looks are made to feel interesting by their Instincts and treasure types. The latter especially are great adventure hook fuel.

Another great resource in this package, to say the least.

Freebooters on the Frontier

This one I only had as a PDF and so I printed it out myself, which works really well with default “booklet” settings in Acrobat. Of course, it helps that at work the Publishing team have one of those super long staplers which helps.

Freebooters is an optional variant of playing Dungeon World in the Perilous Wilds, specifically in the vein of Funnel World. For the unfamiliar, it means beginning with a level zero character, an expendable nobody who’s primary motivation is pure greed. If you’re lucky and/or clever, you can become a real adventurer.

While it uses some of the materials found in the Perilous Wilds, it has a scaled down map creation mini-game that feels like it has a smaller scope.

It contains some more lists and tables of character traits, names and even a really cool spell system. Very intriguing material. I’d like to use some of this in a future campaign some day, perhaps even with Beyond the Wall.

Perilous Almanacs

This one was also a PDF that I printed and assembled myself.

In here we find a few regional outlines that can be used for expeditions and dungeon delving. Each one has lots of things to discover and dangers to overcome.

I really liked how these were structured. The headings are clear, obvious and consistently applied across each of these almanacs, despite different authors. Once again I praise the desktop publisher(s).

Just like “A Book of Beasts”, the creatures within are all interesting thanks to the short lists of Instinct. I mean, SURE, some Game Masters will roll their eyes and exclaim that they don’t need instructions on how to use monsters in exciting ways. But to hell with them: these Dungeon World types of stat blocks have always helped me to provide more excitement and danger to encounters and fights. They’re great.

I felt inspired by the very names of the locations: titles like “The Rift of Blood”, “The Pallid Ward” or “Hayal Soluk, the Dreaming Breath”. Whoah.

Conclusion

I whole-heartedly recommend the Perilous Wilds, not only for the sheer quantity of useful stuff, but for the high quality production values, great usability, imaginative and creative ideas and simply as another valuable resource to Game Masters. Whether you intend to use it with Dungeon World or some other game.

You can purchase the Perilous Wilds, and its companion booklets, on DrivethruRPG.