Whenever a product is advertised as a “toolbox” I grow suspicious. Because what they usually mean is “Here are some cool ideas, but you do the hard work of making it useful at the table.” Ugh. No. I need to be able to grab it, read it, and then jump into a game with as little prep as possible.
Grab the PDF here for $20
Into the Wyrd and Wild by Charles Ferguson-Avery is the first toolbox I’ve actually enjoyed using. Even though it did take a little effort, the result was worth it. To make my job a little easier I whipped up a simple “Hunt Generator” using the content in the book. Maybe you’ll find it useful as well.
So…what is it?
240 pages of grim forest content. Monsters, locations, descriptions, paths, traps, diseases, spells, items, and a framework for “Wilderness Dungeons”.
It seems goofy to try and review the book as a whole. While everything has a similar tone it’s very easy to pick and choose things to throw into your game. So let’s just take it section by section.
The monsters in this book alone justify the cost. What seperates a good monster from a bad monster is “interest”. Not only MY interest in using it, but the players interest in fighting it, it’s own interests (or goals), and interesting ways it affects the world.
Wyrd and Wild doesn’t disappoint. The GM’s interest comes from the simple stats, abilities, and motivations described on each page. The player’s interest comes from the interesting combat puzzle each creature represents, but also every creature has parts that can be harvested and used in interesting ways.
If you have any hunters in your group, they’ll go crazy for some of these parts. I can see running an entire campaign of hunting and crafting from these creatures.
Notice how it includes info about what it wants, how it hunts, and how it will interact with the party? Nothing simply “attacks from the shadows”. Creatures can manipulate, decieve, reward, scheme, hunt, and crawl. Each one could be the basis for an epic hunt.
Locations, Descriptions, Paths
To add variety to your forests are a dozen tables of sights, smells, sounds, paths, impressions, scenes, and more!
Tables like this prevent the forest from feeling “samey” or dull. It’s not just a bunch of trees. Hidden ruins, ancient sculptures, strange growths, forgotten paths, all add some variety and spice to your adventures. As the GM, I’m so thankful for this variety and flavor.
And if that isn’t enough, the book also includes 100 pre-made forest locations dripping with flavor:
“81) Singer’s Domain. This copse of trees seems like any other. The only noticeable difference is the lack of any animals or insects. A closer inspection reveals old signs of violence and occasional decaying bones.
At night, the dreams of travellers through this area are plagued with a hollow high-pitched sound, almost resembling a song. Day after day they begin to hear this sound while they are awake. The sound pushes them to acts of violence and self-destruction. This is all at the behest of The Singers, strange beings who live in the dirt and call this place home. They hate all visitors.”
Traps, Flora, Diseases
Traps are really more like hazards than man-made devices. Enchanted streams, meat-eating bogs, killer trees, poisonous spores, and so on. Sprinkle these into your games to keep characters on their toes. Each trap includes details about how to detect it, disable it, avoid it, and what effects it has.
Not everything wants to kill you. Valuable mushrooms, magical flowers, special fruits, and rare patches of moss will reward characters for diligence.
Unfortunately no matter how careful you are, disease can catch up to anyone. A dozen diseases will drain characters of health, safety, and sanity. Each one describes how infection occurs, potential treatments, etc.
The spells in this books are WEIRD in the best way. “Breath of Bees”, “Coffin Nail”, “Etherskip”, “Gluttonous Consumption”, “Speak with Fungus” and so many more. Each one has a variety of uses encouraging creative and careful play. No simple “lightning bolt” in this collection.
The items are likewise unique and fun. Everything from magical blades that make you silent, to flutes that tame insects. Just a few of these toys will force your players to think outside the box. And they’ll want every advantage they can.
This was the bit that interested me the most. Monsters, items, spells can all be found in other places (of lower quality, but still). What I was most interested in was concrete tools that will make all this stuff useful to a GM.
Enter the Wilderness Dungeon. Detailed instructions on how to roll up strange forests and connect them in useful ways. It’s a solid framework to drape all of the content over, and I’ve had several excellent games using these methods to prep an adventure.
Beautiful in Print
And I am so sad the print version isn’t available for purchase at the moment. It would be MUCH easier to recommend. I still think it’s worth buying the PDF, but I’d also keep my eyes out for a print copy ASAP.
My one tiny gripe is that the softcover edition has really dark tables. It’s hard to read some of the print on them. That’s really the only criticism I have.
This book is just gorgeous and packed with awesome content. If you are looking for a dark, grim, intricate forest setting, look no further.
Grab the PDF here for $20
If you’re still on the fence, check out the Hunt Generator below and get a taste for the kind of content you can make with this excellent supplment.