Third Party D&D: Dark Tower (Official 5E Reprint)

This is a release that I’ve been waiting to review since it was originally announced almost two years ago. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Goodman Games’ Original Adventures Reincarnated line. I have a passion for older D&D modules and I’m always excited to see these classics converted to Fifth Edition rules. Recently, it became clear that Goodman Games’ partnership with WotC had come to an end. Many people wondered what this was going to mean for the OAR series. Well, with the release of OAR #7 we have our answer. The seventh entry in the series is not a conversion of an official D&D adventure. Instead, Goodman Games has provided a 5E version of a classic third-party 1E adventure – Dark Tower.

Dark Tower is widely considered to be one of the greatest D&D adventures ever made. That’s quite a feat considering it was developed and published by a third party. Dark Tower is a mega dungeon module that was originally published in 1980 by Judges Guild. It was designed by Jennell Jaquays (AKA: Paul Jaquays) – a legendary TTRPG writer and game master. Being a third-party release, Dark Tower doesn’t take place in a pre-established game world. Instead, it’s designed to be dropped into whatever setting the Dungeon Master is using at their table. The adventure is intended for a party of four to six characters between the levels 7-8. With this in mind, it should immediately be obvious that this adventure is designed for experienced players. To say that the contents of this adventure are challenging is an understatement. This is a classic meat-grinder. But it’s also one that’s expertly crafted.

The adventure starts in the the town of Mitra’s Fist. A hommlet named after a righteous hero who obtained godhood. The town of Mitra’s Fist is home a glorious tower that was erected in Mitra’s honor. Like most righteous demi-gods, Mitra had a mortal enemy, an evil demon named Set. In a plot of mockery against Mitra, Set summoned his own tower, one of evil, and placed it in the heart of Mitra’s Fist. From out of the dark tower came a legion of fiends that tormented the villagers and ultimately overtook the town. As time went on, Mitra’s Fist was largely forgotten but eventually it was rediscovered by treasure hunters. Now, the activity of the town’s new residents have reawakened the sleeping evil inside of the Dark Tower.

The adventure is well known for its brilliant and non-linear design. Once the players have a firm understanding of what exactly has transpired in Mitra’s Fist, they will explore both Mitra’s Tower and Set’s Dark Tower – finding that both structures are connected in a number of interesting ways. The dungeon is filled with all of the classic tropes; strange monsters, traps, and puzzles. This time it’s done with an Egyptian flair that seems to both throw off and intrigue unsuspecting players. It’s an absolute masterpiece. This is an adventure that I’ve never personally experienced, but I’ve always heard tales about. Needless to say, I was excited to finally get my hands on a version for 5E.

As is the case with the other OAR releases, the attention to detail this product received is immediately apparent. Dark Tower is a three-book boxed set. The books come packaged in a thick-sleeve box. Each book is well put together with tight binding, inside cover art, and handy ribbon bookmarks. The first book contains a series or essays and retrospectives on the legacy of the original Dark Tower. It also includes a complete reprinting of the original adventure. The second book contains the 5e conversion as well as two additional chapters that detail the region in which the adventure is set. The third book contains an entirely new sequel to the original module – The Chosen Sons of Set. This sequel is actually comprised of three separate adventures that continues the mythology started with Dark Tower.

From my own personal inspection, I find the 5E conversion of Dark Tower to be very well done. Certain aspects of the adventure have been rebalanced to fit in with the new rules. But make no mistake, all of the peril included in the original is still present. The Chosen Sons of Set does a fairly good job of continuing the original adventure. It allows for a definitive end to the Dark Tower saga (something that was left open in the original), but at times it does seem to deviate a bit from the tone and cleverness of Dark Tower. That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s not. Not at all. But anyone familiar with Jaquay’s work will immediately notice the difference.

For the first time in the OAR line, Goodman Games offers two version of this release. One built for 5E D&D and another version that supports the Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset. I’m a fan of both systems and I must admit that I’m curious how the DCC version might differ. But, considering the $100 pricetag on this product, I’m not about to buy the DCC version just so I can make a comparison. This brings me to my final point, the price.

Paying $100 for an adventure module can be a bit of a hard sell for many consumers. But, when you get down to it. You’re getting your money’s worth. For $100 you actually get two full-sized adventures. The content included here is enough for months and months of gameplay. If you’re an old nerd like me, you also get a quality reprint of the original adventure and ton of great essays that are very well worth your time. Still, I wish they would release a cheaper version that excludes the reprint just to make the release a little more accessible for those who live on a budget.

If you’re a DM who wants to bring a challenging and memorable adventure to the table, Dark Tower is a release you should consider. This is CLASSIC Dungeons & Dragons at its finest.

 

Tabletop

Old Game Hermit

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