Friday, December 15, 2017

Slicing Deeper Into UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris For Your Old School Campaigns

"Not even memories of past glory live on in the gentle hills around the village of Kusnir. Today its people have more concern for commonplace things, like the harvest, trade, and the threat of death in the night!

Kusnir is beset by a skulk.

The attentions of such a creature are a curse on any community. Streets and alleys which ring to the voices of children by day become fearful, shadowy places by night. Men go abroad armed and in groups, while women and children stay behind locked doors and even there are not safe. But life goes on. The lot of the peasant is always hard, what cannot be prevented must be endured and, of course, things could be worse.

Much worse. The skulk has begun to visit the village more and more often. Sometimes it kills, yet just as often it spares a victim, leaving clear signs of what it might have done had it wished. Its visits are now marked by strange and illegible symbols scrawled in blood on the walls of the buildings. The people are worried, helpless, and desperate. Desperate enough to welcome adventurers.

This adventure can be played alone or as the first adventure in the two-part Alderweg series. "

When it comes to modules that have a rolling hills sort of history with my experiences with AD&D 1st edition UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris is at its  center. This module is aimed at the lower end of PC levels starting with 2-5 & in the second part of the of the two-part Adlerweg series we get The Gauntlet we get the PC's bumped up to levels 3-6. So its an interesting mix of PC's levels right off of the cricket bat. 
This is classic Graeme Morris, who co-authored UK1 all over with his passion for plundering the Fiend Folio & Monster Manual for many of his gem like encounters within 'The Sentinel.' This brings a weird English sensibility to the U.K. series which for some is too their taste & not so with other dungeon masters. To run this module takes a steady hand on the dungeon master's part.

There is a lot of investigation, sorting through encounters, clue gathering, piecing the myths & legends of the local area. U.K.2 is a location centered adventure with the action taking place within the confines of the local countryside locations  including the village of Kusnir, an old xvart lair, and a lake-side villa.Its worth noting that this isn't a hack & slash module, there is a lot of investigation work by the PC. The fact that U.K. 2 relies on the Monster Manuel II & The Fiend Folio makes this a great gateway drug for players who haven't experienced the U.K. series with its quirks, twists, and turns sure there hack & slash encounters.But this is a module rooted in thinking or your going to gutted & easily murdered several times over.
Also if your like me & sick of seeing 'Drow' as PC races, on the cover of every other 5th edition adventure, etc. & you want to get into a mythological AD&D style race that fits the bill closer to Celtic & Robert Howardian elements?? Let's quickly talk about the Xvart which is a rather nasty humanoid race;'
Xvarts are bald, blue-skinned humanoids with orange eyes. They are 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and usually wear loose cloth doublets. Xvarts live in hilly, cavernous regions, and are usually of chaotic evil or chaotic neutral alignment.' This race makes an excellent stand in for the Drow & they're far closer to the source material
I've used Xvarts as the souls of reincarnated Celts who couldn't move on to their final rewards after being killed by the Roman occupying forces during the time of Caesar for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess game in an England Upturn’d game.  I digest here but not really because the Xvart's lair provides the PC's with some really nasty insights into the ecology of these little bastards.

Understand that
this is classic Graeme Morris hear & some of the encounters are way over powered for the PC levels suggested. This is an old school module in every shape & way here, they're not worried if your PC gets a bloody nose or impaled on a half orc spear. The gloves are off & the module will come at your party swinging in certain parts. The cartography is one of my favorite parts of U.K. 2 The Sentinel, the maps are clear, concise, & done by the same cartographer who would later go on to work with Warhammer Fantasy first edition. The artwork is passable for the time period which is the latter half of the TSR classic era.

So can U.K.2 The Sentinal be used with modern retroclone systems? In a word yes. This isn't a perfect module by a country mile but its deeply entrenched in both AD&D monsters & Celtic lore. This is a thinking man's adventure with lots of opportunity for killing on the PC's part but they'll just as likely to get slaughtered. U.K.2 The Sentinal would make an excellent Dark Albion
inquisitor's introduction adventure taking place in the back waters of Albion. The monsters of fairy are rising up as the events of the Rose War begin to bring supernatural elements & powers to a boil. There several encounter areas that could lead to fairyland & bring real trouble for a party of adventurers. There's an implied connection between The Plane of Shadow & Fairyland sort of off stage in U.K.2 in the plot line & gaming elements of U.K. 2 in my mind. This makes it a good bridge gap into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition with its mix of encounters with giant bats, an iron cobra, kenku, needlemen, sheet ghouls, a sheet phantom, a stunjelly, witherweed, boat loads of xvarts. Could there be a doorway into Hyperborea's underworld that leads into the realms of the night hags as detailed in U.K.2?

For Lamentations of The Flame Princess I can easily see U.K. 2 being moved right onto the English countryside with little issue. Set during the beginnings of the Pike & Shot era. This adventure could easily be placed at the beginning of one of the numerous skirmishes that happened before 
the Hundred Years' War. The DM would have to twist & turn some of the elements to be a bit more bloody,surreal, & downright dangerous. But let's face it. You can easily refer back to real world mythology & pop culture to give all of the monsters a bit more of the LoFP treatment.
UK2 The Sentinel By Graeme Morris isn't perfect nor as widely regarded as part II but there's enough meat here that it stands on its merits and its a damn fun module to run! For now keep em rolling & I hope you all make your saves!
More to come folks!

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