A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks

Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks by Bill Webb is a role playing game supplement published by Frog God Games. Although this isn’t specifically for any particular game system, there are stats provided for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Swords & Wizardry. As such, the book is covered by the Open Game License and some of it is considered to be Open Game Content as a result.

The PDF is available from RPGNow for $6 but was purchased at the reduced price of $4.50. This is an 82 page bookmarked PDF. Two pages are the front and rear cover, one page the front matter, one page the Table of Contents, two pages are the Open Game License and one page is a blank one entitled “Your Own Fiendish Plots.”

Bill Webb's Book of Dirty TricksDirty Tricks is essentially the introduction, explaining what the book is about. It contains a variety of encounter and campaign modification tricks that can be used to enhance a campaign. Each section of the book is also covered in brief detail and there is a sidebar regarding conversion to game systems (the author’s own campaign is based on the original rules, Swords & Wizardry, D&D 3.x and Pathfinder, with an emphasis on Old School) and there are more sidebars through the text in which the concepts are converted to other systems. This is then followed by the various sections of the book, each of which have a number of examples.

Bill’s Lost Lands House Rules is the, as can be guessed, house rules of the author. The Lost Lands are his home game, which was seen in a number of Necromancer Games products (such as the notorious dungeon Rappan Athuk) and now those of Frog God Games. This section has house rules on such as experience, travelling, getting lost, abilities magic items and running out of food in the wilderness.

The Players Got Too Much Treasure are a number of ways of separating players who have accidentally wound up with too much cash, such as taxation, extortion, bandits, wars and land.

Situational Advantage (Environment) are things intended to make combat more difficult, such as slippery conditions, bad air of one type or another, three dimensional battle (properly using opponents who can fly or who have the higher ground) and slower movement.

Time Wasters are different ways of wasting time, from secret doors that aren’t to keys that open nothing and vast treasure hoards that simply cannot be moved due to their weight and difficulty extracting them.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing are things that are intended to make the safe and predictable unsafe and unpredictable. These include such as cursed items, low powered monsters with useful equipment and monsters that are essentially unkillable.

Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing is the reverse of the previous section; it’s creatures and things that are less capable or dangerous than they actually appear.

Trickery has things such as time limited magic items, hidden compartments within hidden compartments, teleportals, traps that set off other traps when disarmed and other methods of confusing players.

Greed is Bad! are ways of making valuable items be valuable for a limited time, having resources run out if overexploited and giving players the choice between lots of treasure and living to use it.

Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks in Review

The PDF is not wonderfully bookmarked, with only the major sections linked. The Table of Contents is to a similar level of detail. Given how many subsections and sidebars there are, bookmarks leading to these would have been useful. Navigation is therefore quite poor.

The text maintains a single column format and appeared to be free of errors. There are a number of black and white illustrations, up to a full page in size, which all appear relevant to the appropriate text.

‘Dirty Tricks’ is perhaps a bit of a misnomer for the book. It does convey to a degree (from the title) that it is a way of an underhand GM perhaps getting their own back on the players. Which is not what the book is about at all, as can be discovered when it is read.

Instead, it’s intended to create a better game and better players. Many of the house rules will make the game more difficult, especially to those who are more familiar with D&D 3.x/Pathfinder, which tend to be less harsh on characters than earlier games.

When used, the various ideas are intended to make the game more fun and challenging, and to help remove players’ ability to spot when there is something important (if only an important area is described in detail, it’s much easier seeing that it is important). Various examples from classic modules and from Frog God Games/Necromancer products, as well as entertainment, can be found throughout the text.

Although this isn’t a huge book, it is full of interesting ideas. Used carefully and without the intention to hammer players – taking their gold is one thing; giving them a castle and lands that drain it away with a sense of achievement as they improve it is another – the various ideas in this book can enhance a game and spark more creativity from GameMasters. Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks is definitely recommended for any GM who wants to enhance their games creativity and it can be found by clicking here.


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