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The Black Tower (1981)

To my knowledge, The Black Tower (1981) is the only adventure module Midkemia Press produced. Strangely, it claims to simultaneously be generic enough for any system but also designed especially for the Midkemia Game System (which never saw actual publication and seems to be a tweaked sort of D&D). It’s kind of weird to publish books for an unpublished system! But it is easy enough to modify that.

The book primarily details Tulan Castle, which is located at the site of Old Tulan, a settlement abandoned after the Night of Terror, a disastrous conflict between wizards. The castle has since become a habitation for monsters of many types, though they avoid the titular black tower, where the vampire mage Zorasis rules.

Dungeons were starting to get pretty sophisticated by 1981, but I gotta say, I am pretty surprised by this one. It feels extremely sensible. The castle history informs a lot of the space and it is overall a reasonable, comprehensible one. It doesn’t have a lot of the non-linear looping paths like a Jaquays dungeon, but it does embrace the idea dungeons being spaces that are continually repurposed by new inhabitants. You can feel the different histories. The monster selection seems reasonable, too. In this moment in time, you have a ton of really good and really bad dungeons on the market, so it is sort of a novelty to have one that is solidly, if unspectacularly, designed.

Extra fun: my copy is heavily scrawled by the previous owner(s), with notes on changes and the state of their session and all sorts of marginalia. I particularly enjoy how marked up the maps are. I suspect there are collectors who are horrified by this, but I find it delightful!

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