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B10 Night´s Dark Terror - DMs help textby Stefan Beate
As I announced here I want to write a text about the module. I noticed that it is quite complex and demands quite some work by the DM to have it run smoothly. The intent is to produce a text helpful for a DM. This is currently a work in progress, of course, and will need some refinement to be useful. I will post the parts I have written already, to get a feedback on them. Needless to say, it will contain a ton of spoilers.
Without further ado, the first part:
Night´s Dark Terror – Dms help file
I intend this to be readable for anyone, even if they never heard of Karameikos or the module.
This text deals with B10 Night´s Dark Terror. This is an adventure module written by a team of renowned british authors and published in 1986 by TSR for Basic D&D, or BECMI. It is intended as a transition adventure between the Basic Set and the Expert set. Accordingly, its level range is given as 2 – 4. The xp recommended on page 5, about 5000 xp per PC, sets most PCs at 3rd level, with an Elf being 2nd, and a Thief 4th. This is surely not too high, given the challenges lying ahead...
It is a big volume, compared to most other modules from that era – 64 pages, a big foldout map printed on both sides, smaller maps and a sheet of counters for the first big battle scenario to be played on the big foldout map. It also contains some pull-out sheets meant to faciliate play.
The print version is a collectors item these days, and can command high prices if complete and in good condition.
The easiest way to get a hold on it today is a pdf, available here for just 5 $. A PoD version is sorely missed, however. Page references refer to the module, unless stated otherwise.
A fan-made 5e conversion is also available on Pandius. Any comments to 5e monster and enemy stats refer to this, unless otherwise noted.
It has its own Wikipedia entry
An important reference work is the Gazetter GAZ 1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, from 1987. It is available digitally and as PoD. From my experience, the PoD version is very good. It is also cheap these days – 5 $ for digital, and 7.50 $ for digital and PoD. The fold-out map is added in eight separate files, so printing it separately should be possible.
I noticed a few problems and omissions with the module, and as I´m using it with 5e, made some adjustments for this edition. Most notably, the Pcs probably will try to find out what is going on and ask any NPC they can. So, defining NPC knowledge is important here. Furthermore, the module is somewhat unorganized, with information sprinkled throughout. I will try to collect the relevant informations.
One organisatorial speciality is the use of "area codes". A single capital letter followed by a number denotes a fixed area encounter, like W1. Two capital letters, the second being an E, denote events, like SE1. If an area holds more than one location, these are ordered by putting a small letter to the other code, like W10a. While this is meant as a help for the DM to differentiate between the areas, it can be confusing, especially as not all areas denoted are given a detailed map.
The module is set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, as decribed in the Expert set (and used in the Basic set as well). It sets the Pcs, unbeknownst to them at the beginning, against the Iron Ring, a secret organization of slavers, in their attempt to enslave people and gain more power by finding the remains of an ancient, lost civilisation. Classic pulp fiction tropes like these are typical of Basic D&D.
As an introduction to wilderness exploration, it contains weather and traveling notes, a calendar (this was completely changed with GAZ 1 just a year later), and some hints and tips for players as well.
The module is split into several chapters:
an introduction, with rules, explanations and the adventure background
the start with a siege scenario
wilderness exploration and encounters
exploration of a ruined city
overland journey towards a small city
encounters in the city itself
the way into the mountains, towards the lost civilisation
the lost civilisation itself
appendices containing monsters and ideas for further adventures
This text tries to sort the complex and involved storyline, point at possible logical errors, and tries to take into account where playing styles might differ from the 80ies to today, as well as making some notes regarding the current (D&D5) rules.
Chapter 1: Night´s Dark Terror
The Story / Module background
The origin of it all lies in the distant and forgotten past of this area. The Hutaakans are an ancient race of jackal-headed humanoids, who came to dominate the humans in the area by means of their culture and craft. A hidden valley was their religious center. However, an invasion by Gnolls spelled doom for their empire, and the remnants of their race withdrew with human servants into the secluded valley, having hidden the access from the outer world prior to that. However, there remained a few tapestries showing the way to the valley by magical means.
Recently, a wizard of the Iron Ring named Golthar was led by a manuscript to the ancient city of Xitaqa, a Hutaakan ruin, and found one of these tapestries, but old age and circumstances conspired to destroy it prior to him being able to discern the route. However, he found that one such tapestry probably survived in one of the homesteads south of the ruins, and he set a veritable army of goblins in march to pillage these homesteads, trying to catch slaves and to find that tapestry. This is the situation when the heroes enter the picture.
The objectives of the module are to stop the slavers activities, find out what is going on and finally find the hidden valley, following a line of clues and braving numerous obstacles.
Timeline (note: the timeline for the distant past follows the fanworks regarding Karameikos´ history, namely Zendrolions excellent work.
ca. 1500 BC Hutaakans created by Pflarr in the Valley of Hutaaka
ca. 1400 BC Hutaakan influence starts to expand
ca. 1300 – 1000 BC Hutaakan influence at its peak, Golden Age
ca. 1280 BC Rebellion of King Tahrek "the Bright"
After 1280 BC Valley of Hutaaka closed off, map Tapestries created
Until 1000 BC Tapetries buried with Hutaakan priests in the lowlands
1000 BC – 992 BC Great Beastman invasion, Hutaakans withdraw to valley
(Dates per GAZ1 cal)
Probably last year? Ancient manuscript taken by Iron Ring/Golthar
Spring, AC 1000 Golthar discovers Xitaqa, discovers first tapesty
He explores further ruins in the area
A captive tells about a tapestry in one of the homesteads
Golthar sets out to use Goblins for pillaging homesteads
1 Thaumont Stephan hires PCs
4 Thaumont Goblins attack Cherkass homestead.
5 Thaumont Goblins attack Hokol homestead
6 Thaumont Goblins attack Sielo camp
7 Thaumont Pcs start from Kelvin, river attack; Goblins attack Ilyakana camp
8 Thaumont Pcs arrive at Sukiskyn (dusk); Goblins attack Sukiskyn
9 Thaumont Goblins overrun and burn Segenyev, smoke visible for miles
Chapter 2: Siege at Sukiskyn
Part 1: The way to Sukiskyn
The party is hired by Stephan Sukiskyn to transport white horses, highly sought after by the Callarii Elves, from the Sukiskyn homestead to Rifflian, the elvish trading village. The whole action starts right when spring begins, so the weather is probably still quite cold and nasty, equating this with March in the real world. (Starting date is given Moldain, 7 Thaumont, according to the calendar given in the adventure. The calendar in the GAZ differs from that, to keep confusion minimal, I use the dates given in the module)
The party is to be transported by boat to Mishas Ferry, then by foot a days march toward the homestead. The trouble starts right there: The boat is stopped rather rudely and attacked, this is made worse by one rower being an assassin planted by the slavers, who want to stop any folks venturing east from Kelvin. The DM is referred to Map K, the overview of eastern Karameikos.
Problems with this part:
the motivation might not work for your party, so there might be some adjustment needed. This mercenary approach for just 100 GP per PC is very old-school, and judging from other modules, is not all that much for a third-level PC.
The boat is rowed upriver, and stopped by a chain across the river. Yes, this stops the boat – and it will start to drift down the river immediately, making the attack plan partially useless. The attackers beset the boat with missile fire, and a party of boarders swim towards the boat. The rowers are taking cover from the missile fire, so the boat will drift with the current. The archers are using short bows, so the boat is just within short range (5e) at first. The 5e bandit stats use light crossbows instead, having a slightly higher damage potential, but are otherwise identical
The attacks set loose a high number of boarders swimming across the river. In the original adventure, these would swim 20 yards a round (outdoor movement rules), needing two round to reach the boat (80 ft. Away), and another round to enter the boat. With 5e, they need longer – at 15 ft. Swimming speed, they need 5 rounds.
The drifting problem can be adressed if the Iron Ring really want to kill anybody venturing east. A second chain is in the river behind the boat, and pulled up when the boat passes it. With that trick, the attackers know where the enemy will be, and can plan accordingly (maybe with the boarders being on the other side of the river to start with)
Of course, with all the preparation beforehand (introducing a rower to the boat, having a chain of 150 ft. Capable of stopping a boat, and having almost two dozen attackers lying in wait along the river, without communication when – or even if - a boat starts upriver), this is not the most logical setup anyway. It might be more logical to prepare an ambush at the ferry.
If the Pcs manage to catch the leaders alive, you will have to define what they know about the operation. My take: the Hounds know next to nothing, the Reavers know who sent them (Golthar), what their goal is (stop anyone from venturing east) and that they were given orders to stop anyone by all means necessary. They know that they work for a bigger organisation, but no details. They do not know Golthars whereabouts, and why he wants to stop any interlopers. The last two are to withhold information from the PC, who could venture elseway if they knew whereto.
W1 Mishas Ferry:
Why is there a ferry anyway? It connects some trails, which don´t have all that much relevance. And with Misha apparently being away extended periods of time, it is next to useless. I see the necessity to cross the river at some point, but here? The whole ferry could be left out, and the Pcs dropped off at the southern river bank, without losing anything. Getting the horses back to Kelvin and further west could be done by leading the heard south of the river, the trail to the north is not needed for that.
I don´t like the off-handed way Misha is explained away. That way, the Pcs have no chance at all to find out more. After the first attack, they are well aware that something is amiss anyway. The Pcs might find the corpse entangled below the water line, having been paralyzed by the bats. (IMC, she was away hunting, at the loggers camp upriver, and met her end there).
Part 2: The Siege at Sukiskyn
The Pcs arrive at the homestead just after nightfall while it is under attack by several tribes of goblins at once. The barn is ablaze. They need to fight their way through eight goblins to reach the bridge towards the homestead proper (if playing with newer rules, will any monstrous races be allowed inside?) They need to fight off a few more goblins who broke the outer defense line, before being in relative safety. The night has several siege events described, which would deny any defenders a quiet night. This part of the adventure should be studied well to make it run smoothly. The defenders are seriously outnumbered, and even the Pcs will be hard-pressed to survive the onslaught. There are almost 70 regular goblins, 7 subleaders and two leaders around, and a dozen dire wolves. What´s more, at one point, a handful of bats attack, and can paralyze their victims.
The homestead is described almost in shorthand, packing a lot of information into a single page of description, giving the DM a lot of room for further development. Without the Pcs, the homesteader would be doomed. OTOH, unless the Pcs are really stupid, they can hold their ground.
well, the goblins are acting as an agressive attack force. This is different from how goblins are portrayed in 5e. Furthermore, note that Goblins in 5e not using finesse or missile weapons are not reaching their full potential. You might want to change the goblins to being more heavy melee oriented.
The goblins at event SE2 are using slings. Even by the most generous measurements, they are at disadvantage in 5e, and at long range in BECMI rules, as the undergrowth is at least 80 ft. Away from the homestead. This and the cover granted by the homesteads defensive measures makes this futile. With BECMI, the goblins get -3 (battlements), -5 (windows) or even -7 (arrowslits) to hit. With 5e, they have disadvantage (netting a -5), and between -2 and -5 on top of that (cover rules). If you keep this as it is, the goblins will give up in frustration really soon, not after 1d6+8 rounds.
The defenders have a lot of weapons lying around unused – if you would live in a frontier situation, wouldn´t you have anybody older than an infant trained and armed to the best of their ability? And, given that you have a defensive position, bow and arrow usable from behind crenellations are probably better than slings + stones, I´d say. This is what the armoury contains:
Contents: 2 short bows, 2 longbows, a battle axe, 2 small shields, a long sword,
a rusty mace, a dwarf-sized suit of plate armour, a broken crossbow, 3 slings, 16
spears, 120 arrows, 200 slingstones.
Most NPCs don´t even have a dagger at hand, and there are weapons lying around sufficient to arm a village militia.
After the siege – or even during it, given that there are phases without hot action – the Pcs are likely to ask about what happened that led to this massive attack. The module does not give much in the way of "why" or "what do you know", the only informations available point to the next encounters. (p. 13-14). The homesteaders are sources of information, as are any possible captives.
What the homesteaders know:
there are two clans of goblins attacking the homestead: the Red-blade (or Gnhasska), and the Wolfskull (or Kloss-lunk), who ride wolves
there was a third clan, the Vipers (or Jaggadash), but these have run off with the horses from the pens, after killing two of the clan (Novannes and Hakos)
although the barn, the gatehouse and the northern stretch of palisade are on fire, the main building and stables are intact
with the party's help, the defenders have a good chance of holding out until dawn, when daylight will force the goblins back into the woods
with so many goblins hidden in the woods it would be suicidal to leave the homestead before dawn
this is only one of several goblin attacks on human homesteads in recent weeks.
(from p. 14)
area knowledge and
local legends (both to be defined)
The cooperation of the three goblin tribes leaves one conclusion: there is a greater power controlling them, otherwise, they would not even have worked together that long
They want the horses back