After you’ve read a few dozen TTRPG systems, modules, and supplements you begin to develop a sense of whether or not you’re going to like a new manual within the first few pages. After you’ve read 100+, that instinct is honed to a razor’s edge. I knew at a glance that I would enjoy Braythe.
In my experience, there seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears that went into a game and quality. When I look at a system for the first time and it appears as though someone put it together in ten minutes, I know I probably won’t be writing a deep dive or a comprehensive review of that system. On the other hand, when I look at a system bursting at the seams with content, art, maps, and the first few pages are polished and well-written, I instinctively reach for my notepad.
I’m happy to say that the latter was my experience upon my first viewing of Braythe. There is a trailer with beautiful sound and art on the Braythe homepage. A freaking trailer! You know that a writer who took the time to gather the art, purchased the music rights, and produced a video depicting their work, really loves their craft. That person put the time, blood, sweat, and tears into their content, and it shows.
Braythe is a vast setting supplement built for Dungeons & Dragons, and I do mean vast. It took me quite some time to read through all the content. The writer, Heiner De Wendt, produced chapter after chapter of lore, mechanics, details, and all that content exemplifies his skill as a writer. The work is easy to understand, intriguing, and polished. I found myself unreservedly immersed in the world de Wendt created.
What’s it about?
Heiner De Wendt is a clever man. Braythe is about whatever you want it to be. He somehow made a complex and vast world flexible and malleable enough to fit virtually any table. That is no easy feat. Typically, large complex settings, modules, and campaigns give you a fairly solid and unambiguous direction. What appeals to many DM’s about these types of supplements is the relief it offers. The burden of writing, characters, locations, and the like is mitigated. Dungeon Masters can redirect their focus towards their performance and working with the players. They don’t have to worry about what’s right around the corner; somebody’s already done that for them.
The drawback to this is that tones, themes, and to varying degrees, narrative freedom is also lessened. If you’re running a dark module, for instance, you’re going to run a dark game, that’s obvious. If it’s a long-running game, that may end up burdensome. At a certain point, it’s hard to detour from the module’s tone. It just doesn’t feel right to introduce a new premise.
Braythe avoids this trap while still offering the stability of a highly immersive module. de Wendt managed this feat through a few interesting tools he employed right away.
How does it work?
The setting makes itself enticing to homebrewers. Braythe isn’t a world or a country, it’s a microcosm. Braythe is a space made by mysterious entities beyond mortal comprehension for the purpose of saving the remnants of destroyed worlds. The lore, in a nutshell, states that after a world is destroyed, a champion is chosen to re-forge the remnants into what amounts to a continent floating in a vast dimensional space. Each of these continents is chained together allowing passage from land to land while simultaneously preventing them from drifting away. De Wendt also provides us with a full and rich description of one of these rebuilt island worlds, Ashandri. Within that description, two neighboring continental discs are described as they are chained to Ashandri.
This unique idea is described with such vivid narration that the people, locations, plot hooks and character classes, come alive. In my mind, I know exactly what Braythe and Ashandri look like. I know where I’d want to send an adventuring party. I have a list of quests, obstacles, creatures, items and even themes I can explore in this setting, but I don’t have to use any of them.
This supplement is exceptionally modular. For every plot device written, at least three or four alternate devices are provided. The way de Wendt organizes all this content leaves you room to select any of the options he’s provided or write your own. If you like a theme but you want to go about it in a different way, it’s easy to choose one of his other plot hooks or write your own. You don’t get boxed in by Braythe, but you still have more than enough content to explore.
What does it provide?
Right away, Braythe offers you game mechanics as unique as the setting. Ashandri is a massive land stitched together from the remnants of an entire world. The territories are diverse and fleshed out. The massive chains keeping the mysterious island continent tethered to its neighbors have unique properties that offer interesting opportunities for a DM. Along with the imaginative lore, de Wendt crafted unique “physics” governing this bizarre world.
How does gravity work on the chains connecting the continents? What are they made of? How is the land affected by the catastrophe that ended the world? How is it affected by the magic that brought it all back together again?
All these questions are answered. If you have a player that really wants to know how this world works, you have a way of showing them. Braythe even provides a side quest for doing just that. But what’s really impressive here is that you don’t have to use any of it. It’s there if you want it, but if the game goes in an unforeseen direction (which they often do), then you’re fine. There’s more lore for you to grab if you need it, or you can easily make your own. Cherry-picking what you want in your game doesn’t break the system de Wendt created.
The setting is technically a post-apocalyptic world. This may excite some and turn others off, but before you check out, let me reiterate how flexible this supplement is. Yes, the world Island of Ashandri was destroyed and is in the process of being rebuilt, but you don’t need to make that a central part of your campaign. If you want to run a post-apocalyptic game, you certainly can, but Ashandri offers a detail-rich, high magic, setting. You could explore the land as you would any other magical realm. You don’t have to make it all about cannibals, death, and survival. In fact, the overarching theme is more about moving from surviving to thriving, but I’ll discuss that more later.
Along with detailed descriptions of lands, lore, and culture, you will find new races, subclasses, creatures, and magic items. There really is a lot to this game. de Wendt didn’t skimp on detail anywhere. For every race, there is a culture. For every creature, there is a lineage. For every magic item, there is a plot hook and mechanics.
What does this game provide? The real question is what doesn’t it provide?
Who is this game for?
Overall, I found Braythe to be an exceptionally well-written and comprehensive supplement worthy of any Dungeon Master’s attention. That being said, however, there are a few play styles that may benefit more from this product.
If you are a DM pressed for time, you should take a look at this world. The sad truth is, no matter how much we love D&D, it takes up a lot of time. Preparing quests, treasures, monsters, and NPCs can be challenging and consuming. Life has a tendency of getting in the way far too often, so going to a setting as comprehensive and as easy to read as Braythe can really lighten the load.
To expand upon that, if you’re a DM that loves to homebrew but still finds himself without enough hours in the day, Braythe is even more relevant to your situation. The world mechanics lend themselves exceptionally well to homebrew. You can easily pick and choose what you want to employ without worrying about derailing the game. Write your own mission within this world, then use one of their plot hooks, then write your own location. It doesn’t matter. Braythe is a toolbox; use the tools that best work for you.
New DM’s could benefit from this supplement. The writing is comprehensive but clear and approachable. You’re not going to get lost and confused within a labyrinth of complex schemes and new system mechanics. One readthrough and you got it. And as you develop as a DM, you can start writing your own content without worrying about breaking the system.
My Take Away.
I greatly enjoyed reading the lore and fresh new content. You can’t help letting your imagination run wild with the possibilities provided by this rich and textured world. One thing I would like to note in particular about de Wendt’s system was its suggested use of theme. The overarching purpose of the setting is to provide a world moving away from surviving and towards thriving. Ways to approach this theme are provided, but the fact that “theme” is directly addressed at all sets this system apart.
Often, modules and settings have an implied theme; which is fine. De Wendt, however, works with you to help deliberately craft a theme. There is a section dedicated to how you might approach making this game more psychological, and more relevant to the players. I have not seen many TTRPG systems that do this.
My approach to Dungeons & Dragons, and TTRPG in general, is that it’s a kind of collaborative writing experience. Yes, the DM does the bulk of the writing, but the players make decisions and craft personalities. They drive the plot forward. When I read the section detailing the theme and how to make a psychological campaign, I felt that de Wendt entered into collaboration with me as the Dungeon Master. This isn’t just plot hooks and quests, it’s a story. The introduction of an overarching theme elevates that story. And there just aren’t that many systems out there that address this directly and distinctly.
Overall, I really appreciate what de Wendt did here. I’ve already decided to use some of the content within Braythe as part of my homebrew campaign. And you better believe that if my world is ever destroyed, then there will be a champion that re-forges it within the floating void of Braythe.
Until next time, keep writing, and maybe I’ll see you on the World Chain.
If you’re interested in reading Braythe, follow the link below. Note, most of the content for this immeasurable world is free. The writer posted it on WorldAnvil.com. There is a link to the writer’s Patreon where you can find exclusive content. I have not personally read anything behind the paywall, but I believe it is likely just as well-crafted as the content I’ve reviewed. Writers don’t put this much time into their work for nothing.
I would also like to underline the point that everything I read was free, and there is a lot of it. I stated several times throughout my post how impressed I was with the scope of Braythe, and all of it is completely free.
It’s definitely worth your time to read over.
If you have any suggestions for a game review, please leave a comment.