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Nightwail (1990)

Nightwail is the first of a trilogy of adventures that bring players into the hollow world then introduces them, in turn, to three of the major cultures within. This first one involves the Azcan Empire, a stand-in for our Aztecs.

The first segment is pretty typical — some royalty is missing, investigate the crime, explore a dungeon and then, whoops, fall into the world inside the world. I really the love swerve of this, and how all of a sudden the players have to deal with pyramids and jungles and dinosaurs. Once there, they become embroiled, unwittingly, in the plots of the Immortals.

What that plot is…OK, so, I hesitate to say this trilogy of modules is great in a conventional sense. There are lots of great pulpy moments (They wind up on the sun! In the first part!), and I doubt any player’d be disappointed in the end. But the underlying plot is ridiculous. In the best possible way! I find it delightful. But it basically establishes a system of D&D rules justifications for how the Known World and the Hollow World exist, then threads the plot around unraveling those spells and such. It’s all very meta and the villain, the Immortal Thanatos, is essentially a very clever rules lawyer trying to unmake creation? Like, major plot points hang on rule technicalities. Does this matter for the players? Maybe not, most folks probably run the thing so this doesn’t shine through, but I think this sort of thing is fantastic, a mystery based not on human impulses and desires, but on the interaction of obscure D&D rules. Planescape does the same sort of thing, a little more broadly, so of course I love this.

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