The Saving Throw
Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition ~ Open Grave 10.16.2009
Saving Throw's review of Open Grave

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Open Grave
published by Wizards of the Coast reviewed by Martin Drury
224 pages, 2008, $29.95
Content 4
Organization 4
Consistency 4
Intelligibility 4
Review Scoring

   No fantasy adventure is complete without a few undead. Of course, your garden variety zombies and skeletons get boring after a while. Enter Open Grave, a sourcebook for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

This sourcebook provides over 50 new undead and unliving monsters, including an "Undead Hall of Infamy". A chapter of example undead lairs and how to create them is sure to help Game Masters terrify players. Throw in 11 new templates, alternative powers, a guide on undead monsters and villains, and, most importantly, two chapters of lore, and Open Grave has the potential to please both Game Masters and players.

The sample undead lairs range from the typical, graveyards, battlefields, catacombs, and temples, to the exotic, such as a lair in an astral corpse. Several of the new monsters provide interesting takes on common enemies, such as the undead beholder and the couatl mockery. Only a few of the templates provided, such as the Infected Zombie or Deathhunger templates, actually require the base creature to be an undead. In fact, four of the templates can only be applied to living creatures. All of them allow players and Game Masters to entwine undeath in their games to an even greater degree.

The Hall of Infamy provides a Game Master with such classic Dungeons & Dragons villains as Kas the Betrayer, Vecna, Kyuss, and Strahd von Zarovich. These old favorites have thwarted players for decades, and now get to do so in 4th Edition.

As mentioned before, the two chapters that will be of the most general use to players and Game Masters are those on undead lore and the guide for using undead monsters and villians. These two chapters provide much background information about undeath in general as well as valuable insight into how best to use (or defend against) the undead in adventures. The game masters guide also provides artifacts, rituals, and undead grafts along with sample campaign arcs.

For players or Game Masters who do not face many of undead in their games, Open Grave will not be of that much use. For a Game Master looking to run a campaign against a classic undead villain, or a campaign featuring a large number of undead, Open Grave is an indispensible resource.

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