Game Title: Uncaged Volume Two
Publisher: Uncaged Authors at Dungeon Masters Guild
Editor-In-Chief: Ashley Warren
Authors: Ally Sulentic, Amy and Tim Dziewit, Ashley Warren, Arras Wiedorn, Benjamin L. Eastman, Blinne Emersyn, Chai Power, Christine Prevas, CJ Oliver, Colleen A Taylor, David G. Harris, David Markiwsky, Dimitri Lambermont, Eleanor Hingley, Insha Fitzpatrick, Jazz Eisinger, Jess Waters, Kelly Mangerino, Leon Barillaro, Maggie Harbison, Margaret Mae, Matt Dunn, Miranda Mels, Monica Evans, Paige Ford, Remko van der Heul, Samantha Lavender, Tera Hooper, Tim Christopher, Xan Larson
Illustrators: Kayla Cline, David Markiwsky, Gwendy Bee, Margaret Salter, Samantha Darcy, Wouter Florusse, Xan Larson, Jen Vaughn
Genre: Fantasy adventure supplement for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons
Pages: 250 pages
Price: $14.99 PDF – $36.99 Print-On-Demand hard cover from Dungeon Masters Guild
The monsters are back —and as human as ever— in Uncaged Volume 2, a collection of D&D 5th Edition adventures for characters level 0-4.
Before going any further, it’s important to note that this will not be a spoiler free review. Details of specific adventures within the collection will be discussed. If you are familiar with Uncaged Volume 1 and want to avoid spoilers, know that its sequel expands on everything that made the original great without retreading old ground. Those who are new to the series at large should check out my review for the first volume here for a broader, spoiler-free review of what you can expect from the second volume.
Still here? Great!
Uncaged offers a feminist reframing of the traditional D&D experience. Empathy and emotional intelligence matter as much, if not more than strength, dexterity, or constitution. Many of the most compelling moments in this collection come not from exciting battles, but quiet acts of compassion and understanding. Yes, you can fight the rusalka, drowned by her betrothed. Yes, you can help her seek revenge, allowing her to drag him into a watery grave.
Or, yes, you can spare her the kindness she was so cruelly denied in life and give her the opportunity to choose another path — thereby reclaiming her humanity.
It’s not that Uncaged shies away from conflict; it’s that many of the conflicts within its pages aren’t those really resolved by violence. Heroism here is not about hack and slash, but in finding ways to hold space, seek justice, and facilitate change.
This isn’t to say that Uncaged Volume 2 is in any way lacking in magic. DMs will find no shortage of clever puzzles, mind teasing mysteries, or even challenging combat encounters. The worldbuilding is top notch and the authors are uniformly evocative in their prose. Ingenious re-imaginings of a classic D&D lore abound while the spirit of adventure remains alive and well.
Much like its predecessor, Uncaged Volume 2, is a tome of tales for those who may not usually see themselves represented at the table. Same-sex couples appear with regularity, both in the background and as feature characters. An entire village signs to communicate with a Deaf character. Editor Ashley Warren has once again curated a collection of adventures that pays homage to Gary Gygax’s vision, even as it works to counter its shortcomings.
As with the previous volume, beautiful full-color art abounds. Interior layouts are clean and easy to navigate, even for those reading on screens. Helpful callout boxes keep things flowing smoothly for both seasoned DMs and first-timers alike.
For all the wonder within, however, Uncaged Volume 2 won’t be for everyone. Fans of combat-heavy encounters requiring careful strategy and detailed maps won’t find much on offer; though blank maps are included with the book, Uncaged tends towards a “theatre of the mind” approach. Likewise, lore purists are likely to be aggravated by the changes made; if you’re invested in the D&D banshee being an elf punished for its use of beauty as a means of cruelty, for example, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Players and GMs alike may also find that Uncaged requires more out-of-game communication than the typical D&D supplement. There’s some heavy topics within, and while they’re handled with care and tact, they may be too disturbing for some players. Incidents of sexual and intimate partner violence —along with other potentially disturbing material— are marked with a clear warning, but DMs may want to have a session zero to give players the chance to express concerns, delineate boundaries, and establish a procedure should a story element become too upsetting. If Uncaged asks compassion of its characters, it virtually demands it of its DMs.
For all the dark places these narratives venture into, though, Uncaged Volume 2 offers a surprisingly hopeful and affirming take on tabletop adventuring, An ounce of kindness or a moment of empathy are sometimes all it takes to save the day —a lesson the book implores you to take away from the table and utilize into our everyday lives.
Uncaged Volume 2 expands on the groundwork laid by its predecessor, once again asking us to confront the question of what it really means to be monstrous. With engaging writing, strong worldbuilding, and stunning art, the book offers a collection of compelling adventures that work beautifully as standalones or woven into a larger campaign.