Title: Uncaged Volume 4
Publisher: Uncaged Authors at Dungeon Masters Guild
Authors: Aaron King, Anthony Alipio, Cameron Blair, Caroline Amaba, Connor Land, Jamie O’Duibhir, Jessica Marcrum, Jesse Jordan, Jo Kreil, Johnny Caputo, KC Shi, Lauren Dunson, Matthew Moynihan, Maxine Henry, Phil Allison, Sarah Gray Harker, S.L. Parker, lly Sulentic, Anthony Beal, Asa Wheatley, Awkward Bard, Bianca Bickford, Col- leen Taylor, Collette Quach, D.W. Dagon, Elise Cretel, Emily Smith, Judy Black, Margaret Mae, Megan Ir- ving, Mellanie Black, Sam Mannell, TK Johnson, Yubi
Illustrators: Alison Huang, David Markiwsky, D.W. Dagon, Gwendy Bee, Jennifer Peig, Johanna Taylor, Kayla Cline, Liz Gist, Luciella Elisabeth Scarlett, Samantha Darcy, Wouter Florusse, Xan Larson
Genre: Fantasy adventure supplement for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons
Pages: 217 pages
Price: $14.95 PDF/$35.95 Print-On-Demand from DM’s Guild
Uncaged, Volume IV brings the series home with a strong finish, furnishing players and DMs with seventeen new adventures designed to be played in a single session.
Uncaged has established its hallmarks: beautiful art and design paired with thoughtfully crafted narratives authored by voices traditionally underrepresented in the tabletop gaming space (and in mass media at large). There’s an ethos of care that suffuses the text including content warnings for potentially upsetting material and advisements for setting boundaries and expectations. Each adventure is accompanied by a series of author’s notes and a short biography that, together, often provide some insights as to the writer’s reasoning and hopes in developing the module. Ashley Warren continues to serve as founder and producer.
If you loved any (or all) or the preceding volumes, you’ll find the fourth and final outing keeps pace, meeting or exceeding an already high bar. While some adventures may feel particularly sensitive, there is never a sense of cruelty for cruelty’s sake and there is much that offers comfort and reassurance, if players allow themselves to be open to the experience.
There is also the literal image of a jolly werewolf in a party hat, now in contention for my favorite illustration in any tabletop roleplaying book.
Uncaged has never been afraid to go to dark places and Volume IV is no exception. Much of the series’ underlying ethos has hinged on the idea that wanton violence (e.g., “murder hobo”-type behavior) has consequences. Players who rush to judgment, act rashly, or harm as a first course of action may find themselves the source of grievous ends for well-liked NPCs. This can be a double-edged sword for sensitive players, as the risk for emotional bleed can run high.
Volume IV also introduces the “Uncaged Grimoire,” offering a new class in the form of the Uncaged; a selection of new races, subclasses, and patrons; NPC and creature stat blocks; a list magical items; and spells. A section has also been included on the making of Uncaged, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse from the more than 100 creatives from around the world who came together to bring these anthologies to life. It’s a lovely way to celebrate the phenomenal success of these books and a beautiful tribute to what they’ve created.
Taken together, the four volumes of Uncaged offer a stylish, substantive argument for a gaming world that is more inclusive; that better represents the diversity of voices and experiences in the world; and that challenges the classic Dungeons and Dragons paradigms while still paying homage to them. They are a welcome mat for those who feel they may not belong around a table or that roleplaying games don’t have room for those not traditionally represented in the hobby. The adventures they contain are structured in such a way as to be friendly to first-time DMs while still allowing their more experienced counterparts interesting and innovative options for tailoring the experience.
In short, while this may be the final volume of Uncaged, I suspect we’ll see ripple effects out from it for years to come — after all, it’s not every supplement that manages to pack a panel at Gen Con.
The series, however, can ask a lot from players and more sensitive adventures truly do require open out-of-character communication, emotional sensitivity and maturity, as well clear discussions about boundaries. Uncaged offers the potential for moments of incredible catharsis through storytelling, but there is no shortage of risks. Child abuse, intimate partner violence, disease, and sexual assault are treated with care, but are never sugarcoated. Consequences for player actions can be weighty — a murdered child being one of them. While Uncaged does offer compelling fantasy escapism, it may be of a very different brand than what players are expecting.
The world of tabletop roleplaying is better for the existence of Uncaged. Volume IV offers the series the opportunity to end on a high note, maintaining an exceedingly high bar of quality and consistency. Volume IV, even more than its predecessors, equips enterprising DMs with the means to go out and create their own Uncaged tales, ensuring the book will have life (and legs) far beyond the pages of its four volumes.