Brant Guillory, 24 February 2022
How many of us have ever embarked on a great fantasy epic and the characters were dead in 20 minutes because we were building our new characters and bit off more than we could chew? How often has the DM/GM been forced to tie together a bunch of trite dungeon crawls together just to have enough of a campaign for the 2nd level characters to wander through? Ever wish you could get those low-level characters out of the “cheese maze” and into the world without getting them quashed in the second encounter?
Have I got a deal for you…
On #TBT, we bring you the occasional classic article – an older review or analysis piece we wanted to rescue
You’ll have to search the out-of-print bins, but this one is well worth the quest.
B10 – Night’s Dark Terror, was written for the original D&D line as the “transition” module from the basic rules (levels 1-3) to the expert rules (levels 4-9). You only need the basic rules to play, but most gamers had ’em all anyway.
click images to enlarge
The adventure covers most of the eastern half of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos and starts as a simple “break up the Goblin siege of the town” jaunt before growing into an expanded and well-traveled mini-epic. By the time the players are done, they have faced down the underlings of the Iron Ring (a notorious slaver organization) and faced the challenges of the Lost Valley of the Hutaaka (a mysterious Egyptian-influenced dog-like people). Most importantly, the characters get to stretch out in some elbow room for a change.
The characters are guided towards Sukiskyn with an admittedly hokey set-up: hired to escort horses to the homestead. It’s not the greatest, but it’s better than “you’re all sitting in the bar surrounded by other knaves, adventurers, and scalliwags all wearing ‘for rent’ sings on your backs when a mysterious dark-robed, one-eyed stranger with a limp and an Italian accent picks you out of the crowd for a conversation.”
Once they arrive at Sukiskyn, they find it under siege by a pair of goblin tribes. So the characters have been hired to move horses, and now they’re fighting for the freedom of the farmstead housing their employers.
After the siege is broken, the party has a fairly free reign to explore south of the river, in search of their captured employer from the first encounter.
The search wanders through a goblin lair, an encounter with a Chevall (a “were-horse” for lack of a better description), and several others; these are not “programmed” (i.e. step A to step B to step C) encounters, but much more free-flowing for the characters to wander through.
Eventually they come to a ruined town where they discover the man behind the goblin attacks was a wizard with the slave ring. In this episode, the characters discover that the Iron Ring are searching for the Hutaakan tapestries which will lead them to the Lost Valley.
Without continuing the “blow-by-blow” let me wrap up this way: there are still three more towns, 6-8 encounters with the slavers, and finding the Hutaaka, as well as the enchanted Hutaakan tapestries. The entire adventure is laid out not as a linear progression, but rather as a huge area where many bits of information are gathered and many different clues and hints lead to the same climax. This doesn’t sound like a big deal in the post-White Wolf era, but for TSR in 1986, this was pretty nifty. More importantly, this is probably all new to a group of characters whose experience up ’til now has been “do we turn left or right at the next intersection in the tunnel?”
The art is simple in that it is basic black and white illustrations, but all very complimentary of the adventure. There are very few random drawings of swords that leave you wondering if they are in any way related to any of the swords carried by the guys you’re beating up. The maps are excellent and very useful. They are not simply “repeat the same icon you’ve seen a million times in every hex.” They are consistent and very useable, and since most gamers dig maps, you’ll get your money’s worth (there are about 20!).
The Farmstead map is a large grid layout to fight out the siege with the included cardstock counters (not standups, but more like wargame pieces). There are several character handouts and DM reference sheets. All told, its well-worth the $10 I paid back in 1986, and worth whatever your local used-game store is wanting to charge you, even if the counters are most-likely missing. I’ve played this thing as a player and a DM, at least twice each. It’s different every time, and it’s enjoyable every time. There is no “linear” route through this module. You start at the same place and end up at the same place, but getting there is always different. If any of you have ever been to Columbia, SC and driven around the highways there, you know what I mean.
This is easily one of the best values you’ll find, and fills a niche not filled by many other products because so few people have ever addressed the transition from dungeon-crawl to the great wide open.
(As a totally unrelated side-note: B10 was one of the UK-flagged modules TSR put out. Apparently many of the folks working for TSRUK also worked for GW at some point. The map of Sukiskyn makes a reappearance on page 333 of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play as Map 7: Typical Farmstead.)
Current update: there is a print-on-demand version of B10 now available through DTRPG that’ll save you significant coin over the original, even if the maps are much smaller, and bound into the book.
Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons as we delve into our personal archives and bring back some previous articles about games you might still want to check out.
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