After running my players through a short introductory adventure I’d written myself in order to set the scene of the Windfare Dale setting, I presented them with a numer of “hooks” when they returned to town. The tale of a master thief passing through the town recently and local legends about a lightning-stricken tower off in the wilderness seemed to do the trick, so off they went to the Tower of the Stargazer.
First, a warning; this review / play report contains a few spoilers.
Let me start by saying my group had a terrific time in this tower; they all liked the adventure very much and I was also pleased with our sessions (they spent two entire four-hour sessions on this adventure). The adventure has a good setup, a nice atmosphere and feels easily adaptable to almost any setting and campaign style.
The PDF looks good enough, the formatting is a bit dated but the text is well written. The only real suggestion I would make if the adventure ever got an update would be to structure the presentations of the more complicated chambers in a better way; an initial presentation of the whole room, its contents and what is immediately apparent about them followed by another structured list describing each section or component in more detail. Some room descriptions run many pages, and even though I prepared thoroughly I found myself needing to pause the action a couple of times to just get my bearings and make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. My advice to the GM would be to not only read this adventure beforehand, but also compose some notes or mark critical passages with a colored pen.
It was my intention to try to run this adventure almost completely “by the book”, but I did make a couple of changes. Nothing major, but a few encounters and problems just didn’t feel right for my group of players. All in all, the central locations and interactions went unchanged.
The tower is indeed suitably lethal; in our group, three characters met their end in the tower, all of them in suitably grisly and/or comical ways. An unfortunate rogue died from a classical poison needle trap on a locked chest. Sweeter still was how his friend the dwarf was so frustrated with this he started hewing at the chest with his axe; a chest containing nothing but a demon trapped in a glass jar, which was promptly released and treated to some dwarf burger. Also, one character fell prey to the best set-up trap/bait in the adventure, managing to get himself sent into the void and eaten alive by space flora…
To sum up, I think this adventure is a very good introduction to OSR gaming (and at just over €2 for the PDF at the moment, an utter steal). The setting for this adventure is very static, without random encounters,no real time constraints and reactive encounters; for later adventures, I’d say this was a weak point, but for an introduction it is excellent. If the players manage to find all treasure in the adventure, they may very well advance to second level even if they were absolute beginners beforehand – this might not be to everyone’s taste, so have a look at the treasure at the end of the adventure and make sure it fits into your “XP economy”.