I11: Needle

This is I11: Needle (1987), a reworked tournament module by Frank Mentzer. It features pregenerated characters named the Ghost, Blaze, Finder, Blondy, Slim and Smiley. There is at least one stealth Star Wars quote and a clear Dune reference. The players need to go into a jungle to get a weird obelisk, haul the thing back, then explore the moon the obelisk teleports them too. The first part is a pretty typical hex crawl, albeit punctuated with puzzles and high strangeness. The third part is a dungeon crawl. The dungeon crawl sure is odd (it ends with a confrontation with “Tiamat” and no, I am not going to explain that further) but it is the middle part that I think is the most interesting.

The middle part is the hauling of the obelisk back to the king who wanted it found (it’s not an obelisk, it’s actually a gigantic piece of tech). This is sort of a nightmare logistical puzzle, involving lots of NPCs sailing to the obelisk, taking it down, packing it up and hauling it back. Things need to be built. Like roads. And a raft (the thing is hollow and will float). That means lumber. Which means upsetting the natives, who are bullywugs and grippli, locked in rivalry with each other. The whole thing plays out across two months of daily events, which feels like a novel sort of slog. I’d definitely enjoy playing this — there are all sorts of opportunities for things to just go entirely off the rails.

Clyde Caldwell cover art. I don’t love it, but I honestly think that is because it was recycled for the 2E Rogues Gallery, a book I loathe. The interiors are by Doug Chaffee, who I don’t know. They feel like run of the mill late-‘80s D&D illustrations.

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