Day 14 - A Module I Would Run for First-Time Players: Starstone by Paul Vernon Lydiate
My first-impressions/gut-reactions in response to today's topic are that I would prefer to run "Castle Greyhawk" or the DMG Monastery dungeon for first-timer players, but since I've already covered the latter, and ruled out the former, I've dug around for some high-quality alternates, and Starstone landed on top.
Paul Vernon's Starstone was published by Northern Sages out of the UK in 1982. If you're not already familiar with Starstone, Matthew Pook's retrospective review can get you up-to-speed. Vernon also wrote several good articles in both White Dwarf---"Designing a Quasi-Medieval Society" (2 parts) and "Town Planner" (3 parts)---and Dragon Magazine---"First, Spread the Faith" and "Travel Works Both Ways"---that are worth looking up.
Disclaimer: I haven't played or run Starstone, so read my thoughts with a healthy critical eye. Using Starstone, I'd like to build a small, local-focus campaign where Starstone's NPCs can shine, and where the players and their PCs know the names of the random citizen they're salvation for, and why they're worth saving.
Why I Like Starstone
Starstone is a well-designed sandbox campaign setting that Vernon brings alive through:
- The County of Starstone's Northern Region, a small and localized wilderness environment spanning 10 miles N-S by 11 miles E-W (in 1/2 mile hexes), containing a fair number of homesteads, monster lairs, and other features of note
- Nine small settlements; for the larger ones, Vernon employs a series of tables similar to those in Midkemia Press' Cities supplement, but without as much detail
- Branstead, a deserted hamlet
- Cragley, a hamlet (37)
- Dolgold Village and Castle, with nearby dwarven mines
- Ganby, village (128)
- Longbottom Down, village
- Sardkirk, a gnomish village
- Spoylesham, a hamlet (87)
- Starston Bridge
- Verbury, village (206)
- Two dungeons:
- The Broch Caverns, a three-level dungeon with 133 keyed encounters, inhabited by ~500 goblins and their allies
- Dolgar's Hold, a two-level dungeon with 45 keyed encounters, inhabited by trollings and morlocks
- A broad tapestry of inter-related NPCs who are all-too-human in their ambitions, petty squabbles, and other relationships: this is where Starstone really shines (and could, in fact, use a matrix of NPCs that would help make the interconnections more manageable)
Three Runners UpI've also already written about L1 on Day 6, or it would appear in the list below, too:
- B4 The Lost City (TSR, 1982) by Tom Moldvay - Another adventure around which you can build an entire campaign
- Gary Gygax's B2 Keep on the Borderlands (TSR 1980) and T1 Village of Hommlet (TSR, 1978) are the classic entry points for new players for a reason: they rock, and you can do far-worse than to begin a campaign with them
- "The Tower of Zenopus" by John Eric Holmes in the Holmes Basic book (TSR, 1977); see Zach Howard's fabulous Zenopus Archives blog and web site for more research on Holmes' dungeon!
My other posts in Kellri's 18 Day Module Challenge:
- Day 13: "The Ruins of Andril" by Ian Melluish
- Day 12: "Treasure of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers
- Day 11: S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
- Day 10: Return of the Eight by Roger E. Moore
- Day 9: Pavis and Big Rubble by Greg Stafford, Steve Perrin, Oliver Dickinson, & Diverse Hands
- Day 8: Angmar, Land of the Witch King by Heike Kubasch
- Day 7: X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay
- Day 6: DMG Monastery Dungeon by Gary Gygax
- Day 5: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
- Day 4: "Deep Shit" by Jeff Barber
- Day 3: A Fabled City of Brass by Anthony Huso
- Day 2: Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry DiTillio
- Day 1: Empire of the Ghouls by Wolfgang Baur
- Day 0: These are a Few of My Favorite Things...