I'm not usually a big fan of PDF products. Oh, I'll buy them, mostly because they're cheap and provide almost instant gratification, but it's rare that I find the format sufficiently better to traditional printing that I find myself thinking, "I'm glad this product is a PDF." Adventure Games Publishing's recent offerings are rare examples of products that do get me thinking just that.
Taking a page from D&D's past, James Mishler has produced two excellent products modeled on TSR's Monster & Treasure Assortment. The first, entitled 100 Exciting Encounters -- 1st Level Encounters presents 100 full-statted encounters suitable for use against a party of 1st-level characters. Of course, as Mishler notes, "some encounters are designed to be rather tough; however, at some point early in their careers all characters should learn that discretion is the better part of valor and that it is better to run away to live and fight another day!" If I hadn't already liked the idea behind the product in the first place, this comment certainly would have won me over!
The second product, entitled 100 Treasure Troves -- Treasure Type 1, follows a similar format, being a collection of 100 treasures of the sort one might reasonably encounter on the 1st level of a dungeon. The treasure are a mix of coins, gems, art objects, and miscellanea, as well as the occasional magic item. One of such magic item -- a wand -- is cursed but it's the kind of cursed item that generates a lot of fun, as the players try to come to grips with its peculiar malediction. Mishler has a real flair for creating dangerous but enjoyable magic items, as I noted in an earlier review; I hope to see more of his handiwork on this topic in the future.
Both PDFs use a simple simple, straightforward layout that is effectively a gigantic table numbered 1-100, so the referee can randomly generate encounters and treasures for use in populating his dungeons or wilderness areas. There's no art in either product, but that's not really a drawback, since there's no need for illustrations here. These products are meant to be used -- printed out, stuck in a referee's binder, and written on as the encounters and treasures are introduced in play, just like the old Monster & Treasure Assortment.
Both products are written with Castles & Crusades in mind, like all of AGP's products. That means that 100 Exciting Encounters requires a small bit of conversion if you use it with a different game, because the stat blocks use the ascending armor class system I so dislike. Granted, it's a small matter to convert them into the traditional D&D system, but it is an inconvenience worth mentioning. 100 Treasure Troves has no such problem, being completely usable without any modifications.
The old Monster & Treasure Assortment is still available as a PDF, but it's more expensive than these two products combined, so, if saving a couple of bucks is a concern, you might be better off grabbing AGP's offerings, particularly if you're playing C&C. Myself, I use both in populating Dwimmermount, as I find variety is never a bad thing. Indeed, one of the often-forgotten dangers of designing a megadungeon is falling into ruts, which is all too easy when dealing with dozens of rooms per level. By having not one but two collections of random monster encounters and treasures, I can avoid that more easily. Consequently, I heartily recommend 100 Exciting Encounters and 100 Treasure Troves to anyone running an old school campaign; they'll both save you a lot of time and effort better spent on creating fiendish tricks and traps and what referee wouldn't rather be doing that?
100 Exciting Encounters -- 1st Level Encounters: 4* out of 5 polearms
100 Treasure Troves -- Treasure Type 1: 4½ out of 5 polearms
*Judged solely on its broad old school utility. As a C&C product, it probably rates a 4½ out of 5.