Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Retro Review For UK4 When A Star Falls By Graeme Morris For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition & Your Old School Campaigns

I've always had a particular love of this adventure & many years ago got a chance to play UK 4 When A Star Falls at the Orc's Nest in London back in the Nineties. Here's what I'm going to tell you about When A Star Falls right away, bring six or more players. This is a decidedly UK style of adventure and it can be very deadly, gritty, and has a bit of a reputation among certain circles of OSR gamers. This is a mid level adventure in every sense of the word. A nice mix of outdoor adventure and dungeon crawling, this is a fun playing adventure  and well put together with all of the elements that we've come to expect from Graeme Morris.
There are several reasons to use this adventure as a mid level adventure for your PC's:
  • Because of When A Star Fall's unique adventure structure, this module can easily be back ported into an existing campaign. The material here is rather unique and stands head and shoulders above the usual AD&D setting echoes and corny adventure setting patterns. UK4 will take players off guard with its clever back handed writing and design 
  • This adventure has a well deserved gritty and interesting reputation even while it offers some unique adventure opportunities. 
  • Copies of this module are relatively inexpensive compared to other classic AD&D adventures but the quality of this product has its roots right in the sword and sorcery wheelhouse. Many of UK4's adventure elements fit right into the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg sword and sorcery themes and ideals making this a rather interesting mid point adventure.

Here's the blurb from the back cover;
"The power of prophecy is given to few. Wise are they who guard this gift well, for those who thirst after such knowledge are not always men of principle. Bastion of destiny, the Tower of the Heavens stands silhouetted against the star-studded night sky. From within his darkened observatory, perched like an eyrie on the highest turret, a figure in white charts the course of a shooting-star as it disappears behind the snow-capped peaks of the Tegefed mountains. The old man smiles grimly to himself; the event foretold has come to pass! Power, glory, riches - it takes years to acquire them. The uncanny accuracy of their predictions has brought all these and more to the sages of the Tower of the Heavens. But what is hard to win is often easier to lose, and the future of the tower now hangs in the balance. For it is written that the day of reckoning draws nearer when a star falls..."
This is an adventure that I've seen hold the interest of the most jaded group of London players you've ever seen. From start to finish this adventure has a mix of complex plot, weird happenings, the PC's have  to deal with greedy derro, deceptive Sverfneblin and treacherous clerics  and the deadly happenings in the back of the plot of this adventure. The  Wiki the plot overview really doesn't do this adventure the justice it deserves; "The adventurers must return the fallen star to its rightful owner. The journey takes many twists and turns as the star's secrets are gradually revealed.[3] The PCs have an encounter with a monster called a memory web on the moors south-east of the Tegefed mountains, and learn of a falling star that reached the earth. They are encouraged to find it and bring it to Shalfey, an Elder Sage of the Tower of the Heavens."
There are several elements that make UK4 unique, there's no real lead in except your PC's are fighting a horrid monster known as the memory web and get flooded with past victims memories.

This is another of those adventures that seems steeped right into the background of When A Star Falls. The over all feel of the adventure seems to draw itself deep into the interior parts of  AS&SH's Hyperborea and its tailor made to be altered to fit into the back drop of the world. UK4 is also decidedly gritty and at points very tense into how it communicates its adventure goals but yet it is neither pushy nor hurried in its execution. A real credit to the writing and design of this module.

There are several things I really love about UK4, among them is the fact that lots of non standard monsters are used in the module. Many of these are from the UK TSR 's Fiend Folio. This was the first module to really bring this from the backdrop into a main body of an adventure. The other thing is that some of the good guys in this adventure are really kinda complete jerks and their very well fleshed out. This  adventure also dovetails into the idea of DYI D&D customization. The unique writing, creative presentations, and more mean that this adventure fits the bill for sword and sorcery action with plenty of opportunity for role playing as well as the huge chunk of dungeon and wilderness crawling build into its structure. Many of the events described in When a Star Falls could easily take place in some custom piece of pseudo historical rpg adventure system such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dark Albion. But here the adventure takes a bit of a dark turn and the use of its setting is rather unique.

Two things about the setting for HK4, this is an adventure that while it does have unique locations takes full adventure of an underworld that draws in adventurers like moths to an open flame. The set up for the UK isn't the Underdark at all but there''s parallels with Derro  lairs, the deep dark locations & places as well as more.  This underworld makes an excellent stand in for Underborea which we've read about in the AS&SH. Several of the threads running through UK4 fit a dark fantasy Europe making When a Star Falls perfect for setting the action in either a deep Russian or Romanian location especially if this adventure is being used as a part of an alternative Earth setting.

Another thing about When A Star Falls is the fact that we never quite get a name of this adventure's world but the implication is that it might be Grayhawk. This means that UK4's setting could easily be moved right into the deep interior of Hyperborea or another sword and sorcery world setting. UK4 is unique in that it not only has solid writing and design but sports an intricate plot that manages to maintain adventure balance and player's interest. This is a weird balanced approach to an adventure that sports on of the more then its fair share of nasty and dangerous encounters while m
oving the over arching plot along at a rather quick pace.

In the end of all of this UK 4 When a Star Falls is a classic of the series and a great opportunity for both the DM to really challenge play with the  experienced, jaded , and snobbiest of players. UK4 is a classic adventure with all of the elements built into it so that a DM can have it ready to go for even a large group of players! There's a ton of bang for your buck that When a Star Falls offers. Highly recommend this adventure to kick off a sword and sorcery campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.