Monday, December 14, 2015

Retro Review of B10 Night's Dark Terror For Basic & Expert Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns And Your Old School Campaigns

Barely one day's march from Kelven, the uncharted tracts of the Dymrak forest conceal horrors enough to freeze the blood of civilized folk. Those who have ventured there tell how death comes quick to the unwary - for the woods at night are far worse than any dungeon.

But you are adventurers, veterans of many battles, and the call of the will is strong. Will you answer the call, or are you afraid of the dark terrors of the night?

UK B10 Night's Dark Terror is one of the first modules from the UK series. An adventure  that was done by the UK TSR super star teams that went on to produce some solid high quality old school gaming products in the Eighties. I've played through Night's Dark Terror way back when in the 90's. As Wiki says," It was designed specifically for campaigns transitioning from the D&D Basic Set to the D&D Expert Set." " PCs) journey from a farmstead into uncharted wilderness, where they encounter new hazards and contend with a secret society." "Night's Dark Terror is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game written by British game designers Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher. " Who would later on go on to form some of the core of Games Workshop's best writers and designers.
Right out of the gate I'm going to come out & say exactly how I feel, this is an adventure that takes beginning level adventurers and forges them into sword & sorcery hard cases. The entire adventure has the feel of a step into a dark Slavic fantasy realm from top to bottom with topping of Conan poured on top spun through Russia. This is an adventure that I'd place right into the heart of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea without a second thought. Do you want your 2nd level adventurers to acquire some teeth and true grit to their PC? This is the adventure to do it with, the PC's are given a solid reason for roaming throughout the uncharted reaches of the Dymrak Forest of northeastern Karameikos.
There are at least three reasons for using Night's Dark Terror for an old school sword and sorcery campaign jump off point : 

  • Solidly done, very gritty sand box style adventure easily customizable to your old school campaign or retroclone system. 
  • The pseudo Slavic background gives the adventure the type of  back beat that we'd later see in products like Warhammer Fantasy Rpg 's adventures like  Death on the Reik and the Enemy Within Campaign. It gives very interesting tapestry to hang the Dungeons and Dragon's monsters within it.
  • The PC's are not heroes they're men and women on a mission with an adventure structure enfolding the entire affair with fixed adventure locations within a wilderness structure allowing the party to make their journey within it. Basically the PC's are green horns who need adventuring & seasoning. This is the adventure that can do it.
  • Have a few extra PC's sheets around even though this is a 'basic' and 'expert' module, its very tightly designed with some very deadly encounters sprinkled throughout the module.

B10  introduces new peoples such as the ancient Hutaakans and the Iron Ring slavers. It extensively describes several major locations, such as the city of Threshold, many and all of these can be dropped right into an Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea campaign. The Slavic wilderness crawl and smattering of sword & sorcery feel of the module is exactly how I think Hyperborea is after getting wiped out by the Green Death.  The module is in point of fact a location based adventure that can be dropped right into the back end of any Northern Slavic style lands making this an excellent adventure use with a pseudo historical game. Both  Romania and the deep reaches of Russia during the later half of the Dark Ages come to mind for use with this adventure  or the early part of the last vestiges of the rule of the Russian Tsars come to mind before the West had truly explored some of the deepest parts of the Russian empire. So yes I do think this would make an excellent Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure.


The real strength of B10 is the fact that this is a gritty sword & sorcery adventure sandbox that has many of the elements that could be used to crop up right out of the gate. For me this adventure has an almost Robert Howard Beyond the Black River feel to the module where the PC's are troding on ruins and places of those who have come before them and the goblins ala the Picts have moved in to fill a sand box style niche.  The breakdown of Night's Dark Terror goes something like this; " The module begins in a beleaguered farmstead. The PCs then explore more than 20,000 square miles (52,000 km2) of wilderness, with eighteen locations, including a number of mini-dungeons, a ruined city, a riverside village, a frontier town, and a lost valley, with the minions of the Iron Ring waiting for the PCs at every step."
As I've said this module has a very classic era Games Workshop feel to it, this isn't a bad thing at all but its a very gritty and grim style of adventure in which the struggle for survival against overwhelming odds is quite true. The Iron Ring slavers and goblins nipping at the heels of the PC's at every turn gives the whole affair a dark and sinister turn.

I think that B10 has what many of the UK series of modules had going for them a feeling of pseudo historical verisimilitude that somehow lacked in many of the US TSR adventures lacked. This might be personal preference on my part but there we are. This is the module that you run for experienced players who want a Mystara style adventure with lots of detailed wilderness encounters, a bit of dungeon crawling, plenty of opportunities for NPC engagements and all of the while fearing at every turn that your PC's are going to have their throats cut and slaughtered.  But I digress,  the module is described as "A Special Basic/Expert Transition Module for Levels 2-4", for campaigns that are being upgraded from the Basic Set to the Expert Set. But it can also be with some dungeon mastering slight of hand be used as a stepping stone for a party of retroclone adventurers as well. I can actually see B10 used as a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure as well, hear me out before tarring and feathering me my fellow DM's reread the back story of B10 adjust your funnels to the Russian and Slavic elements and you've got a fast shake and bake mini sandbox campaign ready to roll.
Now that being said my only reservation  with this module is the fact that your going to need at least six or seven players to run this module. 
Night’s Dark Terror includes a section where players defend a homestead against a goblin siege. It includes everything that your going to need to run this siege but your going to need the number of players to handle the war gaming aspects of B10. As I said bits of this adventure remind me of classic sword and sorcery films of the past and classic story elements of Robert Howard's Conan adventures.

How I wish that TSR had kept this adventure's war gaming structure instead of the mess we later had with the Battle System but that's a post for another time. Let's move on and leave that subject for another day. The Russian and Slavic elements of Night's Dark Terror are an incredible plus for the DM looking to incorporate and warp the module into their own campaigns. I've seen the module described as bland and pedesterian by certain reviewers, I say that this module can be a canvas for DM to place their own campaign and sword & sorcery game material within the confines of B10. Once the module is over what then? Well, you've got a semi complete adventure that could with very little work be used to place a Red And Pleasant Land  right into the back burner of this module. I know sacrilege right? Not so fast kids, this module has an almost complete Slavic backdrop and as I said earlier it would be perfect to slot this adventure right into a pseudo historical Romania or Hyperborean location.  This is an idea that I'm totally stealing from Handy Haversack of Dragon foot forum fame, "
I think that in practice this could probably be scaled down (e.g., I'm thinking of placing it in the Valley of Mists on the Hyperborea map for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea). Also, because of the nature of the place, Voivodja does not have to take up as much space on your "real world" campaign map as it does on its own. Voivodja is strange. "

Yes I totally think that this would work as a side quest or adventure once 'A Night's Dark Terror's events are done to throw the party into the deep end of the Slavic dark fairy tale feel of the adventure. Which brings up another point not only is there the potential for sword & sorcery, I think that B10 Night's Dark Terror totally combines and nails the sword & sorcery as well dark fairy tale feel. The module combines these elements into its own thing leaving plenty of room for the DM to work within. This is something that the rest of the B modules also do, B10 is also very detail and setting oriented if you as a DM feel overwhelm then try the
other B-modules first - B1, B2 & B9 are all good starting points. Night's Dark Terror though remains a favorite for a number of reasons and continues to grace my table to this very night. Classics remain classics for a reason.

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