Author Topic: REVIEW: Game47: The Haunted Tower (by Ray Dyer)  (Read 318 times)

Offline hans

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REVIEW: Game47: The Haunted Tower (by Ray Dyer)
« on: April 04, 2017, 12:05:47 AM »
The penultimate mod in the "Thunder Rift" campaign, Game47: The Haunted Tower is yet another of Ray Dyer's ten! entries into the One-Week Challenge (  Unlike most other entries, this is no mini-mod.  Rather, unexpectedly, it is solidly mid-sized, having given me 6 full hours of rewarding gameplay! 

In fact, The Haunted Tower probably beats out the superb Game42: Quest for the Silver Sword as my favorite in the "Thunder Rift" series.

Right from the start, there is something different about this mod.  Instead of the usual "Thunder Rift" overture, a spooky dirge plays over the Title sequence.  Indeed, the prologue weaves in many eerie new tunes into its unfolding.  A haunting mood is thus well-established and is equally well-maintained throughout the adventure. 

The titular "Haunted Tower" in the Gloomfens must be cleansed of undead evil.  Its exploration is very exciting with each new area described with immersive detail.  A potpourri of unusual monsters inhabit the dark edifice, and many prove more than a handful. 

I was able to retreat to the open Gloomfens to rest early in the game, and there are a couple more safe zones to be found within the sinister stronghold itself as the climax nears.  There's even a place to train before the final confrontation. 

Be forewarned: you will find more coinage than you could possible carry, so unless you want all your PCs to waddle up and down a scary tower with Movements of 3, be prepared to leave most of it behind.

Very little negative to relate.  There were a few spelling mistakes, and one (possible) bug.  The same for me as in the one from Game49: Wyrmhaven, where one of the combat tunes, after it seemed to end, it would play another couple of notes, then silence, then those notes again, then silence, etc., etc., and so on.  Again, it was no game stopper, merely a minor annoyance, at worst.  And, since this type of bug is often confined to very specific memory configurations, it might not even happen on other players' machines.  If it does happen to you, a fairly simple way to shut it off is to save your game, exit, and then reload.  A few seconds work, and then it's not playing anymore.   

Ray, I'm amazed you were able to put together such a big mod as part of the One-Week Challenge, and also very gratified that you did!  It was great fun!   ;D

Offline Ray

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Re: REVIEW: Game47: The Haunted Tower (by Ray Dyer)
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2017, 09:13:30 AM »

Really, really glad you enjoyed this one, Hans!  This one was very unique among the other adventures.  Instead of a boxed set that was intended to be three separate adventures, this was a boxed set that was one great big dungeon.  It was recently uploaded to, and the review there called it the first megadungeon for basic D&D.  (Though I would disagree, in light of such a beast as B4 The Lost City.) 

Of course, they offer that it could be played as several unrelated games, but I just couldn't see myself justifying the different pieces existing on their own; and the story is so tightly interconnected.  It gets weak fast if you try separating them.  So, full-sized mod it was!

Glad the Gloomfens let you rest!

And, it might be sadistic, but I'm still laughing at the idea of all those adventurers waddling up and down the scary tower...  ;D

Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: REVIEW: Game47: The Haunted Tower (by Ray Dyer)
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2017, 05:36:18 AM »
 * This review follows the designer's advise to run the Thunder Rift series (along with game07: B10 Assault on Raven's Ruin) in a particular order.

 * Party rolled: Human female Paladin LG, Dwarf male Cleric LN, Centaur male Ranger NG, Gnome female Magic-User NN, Halfelf male Cleric/Magic-User CG, Halfling male Thief CN -- Ray's Realm allows such racial classing as part of the adventuring package and encourages his Realm players to mix in as many races and classes so as to enjoy the breadth and depth of any given adventure... so's I dids!

 A word about the Thunder Rift modules: these adventures were created in 1992 (when some of us were youngers just starting to explore the game) and were meant to be a sandbox of sorts for DMs and players both new to the game.  They allowed for a lot of modification and were interconnected only by threads, to be filled and fleshed out by the DM running things, adaptable to any of the gameworlds.  As such, there is ample opportunity for Ray to put his Realmstamp upon them, which I am pleased to find to be the case.  I didn't think I would recall as much as I did about the wilderness spread of the adventures, but it didn't affect my play of them in the least.  Ray's done the project a fine service in his importation to the Realm, with custom music and graphics detailing each design individually. On to it, then!

 The adventure here is a good one... and quite large, so be prepared to spend at least several hours to completion.  Ray's gone out of his way here to build a monstrous dungeon with multiple towers and other places, and an overriding goal involving numerous 'bosses' to confront and deal with.  Disaster can strike when you might least expect it, so save often if you find yourself the type to have been born under unlucky stars... foes are plentiful and diverse and you will find having more than one strategy at hand will serve you well.  More than once, I found myself having to rethink my battle plans on the fly, spells included, so I will only say this: prepare for as many different scenarios as you can.  Resting can be had, but grows limited to only certain spots and only available as you progress, so plan accordingly.  I found only the need to rest once and that included a recovery of -all- class skills as well, so make good use of it.

 Ray designs the adventure with a particular flair here, and if you are a fan of the genre you will appreciate the tunes and the artwork presented.  Even if you are not, both the music and the graphics serve admirably to reinforce the setting. There are fun bits to explore, hard decisions to be made, and... if you are lucky... rewards to reap that outshine any others to be found in the Thunder Rift yet.  Throughout the series, many a mention of possible adventure threads has been made, and this is by design.  The Thunder Rift tabletop material is purposefully designed to allow new-to-the-game or veteran DMs to branch their campaigns out to wider and wider goals.  Ray's included some of that here, which gives the player a feeling of being much smaller and yet much larger in the scope.  Again, don't leave the game without dutifully visiting those npcs with whom you spoke earlier... the ending messages and events have been great throughout.

 At the culmination of this adventure, my party had breached level 7 for two characters, one of them being the pure magic-user.  This meant a shiny new level 4 spell among other things.  Once training was completed, I [R]emoved each character to copy/paste them into the next design save folder.

Offline Olivier Leroux

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Re: REVIEW: Game47: The Haunted Tower (by Ray Dyer)
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2017, 04:50:17 PM »
This design was much longer and much more brutal than I expected coming in from the earlier Thunder Rift adventures. It's easily twice, maybe even thrice as big as some of the other designs in the series, far from being a mini-mod. And the Haunted Tower really is the stuff of nightmares, a scary dungeon with at least one instant death trap, and all the creatures that you love to hate (or sometimes actually do hate), creatures who can kill with one bite, who might possibly ruin your equipment (not sure if they do in UA, but the thought alone made me very, very nervous), who are immune to all weapons and most spells, who might charm your friends or who can drain all the levels that you acquired in the Thunder Rift campaign. One of my level 5 fighters was reduced to level 3, than 2 for most of the adventure, and my mage forgot everything he knew about fireballs again, because the scroll with the two Restoration spells I got at the beginning wasn't nearly enough to counteract the level draining attacks my party suffered, especially since it seems that one Restoration spell only restores 1 (or random number x?) level, not all of them, as I thought it would.

I only found two places to rest, at either end of the dungeon, so you have to be prepared for everything and save your spells whenever possible. But there is light at the end of the tunnel here. Contrary to some of the other designs, this one offers the opportinity to fully heal and restore, probably also resurrect the party at the end. All of this made the combat in this design much more tactical and exciting than before, it actually made me use the potions, scrolls and wands I had found but never felt the need to use before during the campaign. But occasionally it also got a little frustrating, like when I ran into the aforementioned creatures with immunities and was all out of the spells that were my only chance to defeat them. And sadly, they weren't even able to defeat my party either, so I had to close down DOSBox just to be able to reload, because otherwise the fight would have gone on forever ...

In the end, all went well and I managed to come out victorious, despite all my scars, but I think the dungeon could have profited from a few more Restoration spells and some magic items with spells especially helpful against the immune creatures, to counteract the random frustration of too many levels getting drained or getting into unwinnable fights. What the dungeon had too much, on the other hand, were coins again. This time I threw away all my money at the start of the adventure, about 10.000 at the very least, only to find another 30-40.000 in the dungeon or as rewards, which I did not even touch or immediately threw away again. Inflation was at an all time high. I also threw away several magical items I found, because I already had lots of better stuff. At least the shopkeeper in Melinir was actually thankful for all the money I 'accidentally' left on his counter.  Not like that boor in Kleine.  ;)

I didn't notic the music problem that hans described in Game49, but it happened to me all the time in this one. I vaguely remember this issue in UA; I guess the song files that were used are too big in size or something. Fortunately, the game never crashed on me because of it.