If any of you are subscribers or regular readers of this blog, you will have no doubt stumbled upon several posts about Limitless Adventures and their products to help streamline encounter preparations for dungeon masters. I have reviewed their products in a previous article (click here) and supported them in their first kickstarter as well. The kickstarter was funded, raising over $23,000 USD which was nearly 474% of their initial funding goal. The campaign offered Limitless’ first 15 Limitless Encounter products (not including stretch goals) consolidated into a single PDF or printed book (either black/white or color). That’s over 150 fully detailed encounters in 12 different environments, stat blocks for all monsters, some creative and challenge appropriate treasures. Each encounter offered 3 Further Adventure™ writing prompts to expand adventure hooks, which amounts to 450+ prompts to give dungeon masters hooks and ideas. Recently the digital rewards were just distributed by the Limitless team and thought to share the product with everyone.
Check out Limitless-Adventures.com and start a free account with them. All purchased products can be downloaded in printer-friendly black & white or in full rich color. Also check out their kickstarter campaign (here) and you can order your own copy of Limitless Encounter vol. 1, please note that this printed book does not include any stretch goals and will be available for sale after all Kickstarter backer rewards have been shipped. The PDF Kickstarter editions have recently been released and I thought I share some my thoughts about the product for those who missed their opportunity to back the kickstarter and may want their own digital/printed copy in the future.
The Compendium of Ideas – This is only volume 1!
Limitless Adventures has been busy crafting not only encounters but also short adventures, NPCs, and even encounters for several to compliment with Storm King’s Thunder adventure and even in the Sword Coast to name a few. Volume of Limitless Encounters offers the first 15 Limitless Encounter products. In the original products, each product offered 10 encounters in a variety of challenge ratings, many are monster encounters but there are some roleplaying and skill challenges that offer diversity for dungeon masters and players. With each encounter, there are 3 Further Adventure™ prompts to help the DM build and expand from the encounter. Sometimes having random encounters is not enough, giving the dungeon master the tools to expand and broaden the encounter enriches the overall game experience for players.
Preparation for sessions is one of the intimidating aspects for new, upcoming dungeon masters. Sly Flourish posted a 2016 DM survey and subsequently released an article detailing the results (see the full article here). From the responses, regarding combat encounter preparation time: the average DM spends anywhere from 15 minutes to upwards of an hour. These figures do not take into account complexity or challenge rating of these encounters. Traditionally, the higher the challenge, the more creatures and hazards are needed which infers greater complexity. Granted the combat encounter calculations and balancing can be a task at times due to the back and forth between pages in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. Wizards released alternative combat encounter rules to streamline the process due to many concerns from DMs (both veteran and new). There are still some problems with the combat encounter calculations, especially regarding distribution and saturation of magical items but I will save that talk for another article in the future.
The Limitless Encounter products were designed to reduce DM preparation time by providing a starting point for an encounter, prompts to help the DM expand on it or inspire them to write their own prompt to connect the events. These products do not remove the dungeon master’s responsibility to craft and customize their game accordingly but these extra encounters remove some of the excess preparation many DMs often make on “what-if” scenarios or tangential divergence from the main plot. Having so many products put into a single PDF or book is an exemplary evolution of their products.
Not just encounters – look at the shiny!
The Limitless Encounter products didn’t simply provide encounters, monster statblocks, and writing prompts. In the original separate products, there was always a promise from the Limitless team to add something new. These could have been a new monster, a magic item, a new spell, or even a trinket. These weren’t simply run of the mill: “here are a bunch of random encounters, now go”. Out of the large criticisms for the current 5th Edition ruleset, magic items and new monsters were always an issue. Wizards released and launched Volo’s Guide to Monsters to alleviate the need for new races and monsters, the present string of Unearthed Arcana class options starting at the last two months of 2016 and likely to continue through 2017 offer a preview of Wizards trying to address the community’s concerns and demands.
The new magic items, new spells, new monsters, and trinkets are all under the open-game license for 5th Edition. None of them are game breaking but complement well with their matching encounters. Speaking of treasures, each of the encounters also specify challenge rating appropriate rewards. Crafting and balancing treasure rewards from encounters often times can be a hassle or a quick, again depending on level and complexity. According to the data from Sly Flourish’s survey, over 60% of the respondents run personal adventures, meaning that most DMs spend about 20-30 minutes average to decide on treasure rewards for an encounter. Published adventures do not have such prep time demands since they are already included with the adventure. Removing the 30 minute prep time definitely helps expedite these core parts for the Dungeon Master.
One of the hallmarks and praise that comes with having these encounters in a compendium is organization, there 10 encounters for a variety of environments: from the frozen arctics to the blistering desert sands. There are two sections for Urban encounters, which is a fairly used environment either central to a campaign or serves well for moments between adventures. The index at the end is alphabetical by name of the encounter, but I do enjoy that the roleplaying and skill challenges are all under one listing which definitely helps immensely when finding those particular sort of encounters. Difficulty by level is even listed in the index, which truly expedites the process of finding a quick challenge appropriate encounter on the fly.
What about the Exclusives?! – Hold on already!
The community helped the Limitless Encounters Vol. 1 successfully fund three of their stretch goals, which were additional encounters, two of which were set in Highway and Planar environments. The highway environments are great encounters toss at players while travelling between destinations, the planar environments provide a similar function those more tailored for a specific plane that might suit the DM’s needs. My favorite encounter of these two environments is the one titled: “Black Knight”. If you’re ever had the pleasure of watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then you should automatically know where I’m drawing the connections. If you haven’t seen it, you should, you’ll be making references for decades.
The last stretch goal were Heroic Battles, which are designed as end game or end of the dungeon sort of battles, where the enemies are challenging for their ratings and the encounter is considerably deadly. From a drow raiding party, to an epic confrontation in an undead tomb, and even a kobold skirmish. Sometimes even crafting that big battle to finish a dungeon can be equally a hassle or time consuming process, having some to throw in quickly especially when the players have gone off the beaten path is immensely helpful. The heroic battles still offer the same great things, from challenge appropriate treasures to more Further Adventure™ prompts.
Not Final Impressions – The future is mysterious but offers a glimmer of hope
I’ve loved the Limitless Adventure products when I first reviewed them, I’ve used a few of the encounters (especially the urban ones) in a recent game with a second D&D group I run. Having a nice printed version is always good for quick references, but even the digital format is good to keep for reference material and inspiration for your own encounters or adventure paths. I’m very proud to have participated in their first kickstarter and look forward to seeing what future products they unveil over time. I suspect a Volume 2 is not far from the horizon yet, though I wouldn’t mind seeing some more Limitless Side Quests in the immediate future, but the encounters are worthwhile to enrich an already constructed adventure or campaign. Sometimes they are good to fill in the gaps when play has seemingly slowed down in a particular locale.
The high-level quality is always a welcome sight from the Limitless products, easy on the eyes and quick to read and reference. I look forward to my physical copy soon, but sone the PDFs were just recently released to the backers I felt I should share my joy and excitements here.
You can check their website at Limitless-Adventures.com.
If you missed their kickstarter, follow the link to pre-order your own printed copy of Limitless Encounters Vol. 1 here.
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