RPGNow.com
Close
Close
Browse











Back
Tower of the Stargazer
 
$7.99
Average Rating:4.4 / 5
Ratings Reviews Total
9 4
6 0
2 2
0 0
0 0
Tower of the Stargazer
Click to view
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:50:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page b/w-version of the cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content, though these pages are A5-booklet-sized (6'' by 9''), which means you can fit about 4 of them on a given sheet of paper, provided your eyesight is good enough.

This review is based primarily on the print-version with new layout from 2014, though I took the electronic version for reference purposes.

So, first things first: This is intended as an introductory module...perhaps not necessarily for gaming as such (more on that later),but for LotFP's distinct style of design. What do I mean by this? Well, this module is suffused with numerous designer's notes that elaborate on specific design decisions and rationales, helping the referee understand why and how certain things are the way they are. At the same time, if you're expecting copious read-aloud text or the like, you're at the wrong place here. If you expect mercy or a gradual learning curve, then you'd be similarly in the wrong place. This module is pretty much sink or swim for referee and players alike.

The hook is as simple as it gets, intentionally so, and the dungeon is very much a contained and relatively static environment, making that aspect "easy" - but only that aspect. The story's simple: There was a wizard known to gaze at the stars; his tower remote and removed from the nearest civilization. People talked about him in hushed whispers and his only lackey took care of most things pertaining paltry mortals. It's been a long, long while since anyone saw the wizard. The intrepid group of victi...ehrr, I mean murderhob...ehrr, I mean "valiant adventurers" has decided that the tower's rife for the plucking.

....and this is about as far as I can go without going into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

Only referees left? Okay. So...know how I consider both "Grinding Gear" and "Hammers of the God" hard but fair? This one...makes sense in a similar manner, but is mean. Logical and methodical in its meanness, but yeah. We begin in the field before the tower: Iron spikes rise from the ground equidistantly, ringing it and the open ground between the spikes and the tower is a blasted ruin, where lightning bolts keep striking. Do the PCs carry long poles? Metal armor? Then they should hurry and get inside. Between the spikes and the tower, there is a percentile chance to be hit by lightning...something a level 1 character is not likely to survive. In order to get in the tower, two options present themselves: A knocker and a handle. The knocker makes the doors open themselves. The handles are shaped like serpents...and touching them makes them come alive. Bite the touching character. Save vs. poison or DIE.

That may sound harsh, but when you think about it, it makes sense in-game: Guests should knock when visiting an evil wizard...and the handles are serpent-shaped. The detail is there...and this is a level 1-module in a relatively rules-lite system. It also serves a purpose of establishing a design-paradigm: Details matter and internal consistency is important. In fact, the whole module can be seen as a conditioning, a teaching experience if you will...one that is gleeful in some of its more sadistic moments...but never one that can be considered to be thoroughly haphazard. There are some moments that are nasty, though: There would be wine as treasure, for example: Well, one bottle has gone bad: Drinking it will cause...bingo. Death. The wine's worth something, so with some ill luck, either a PC or a client may die there...which can spark further adventures, sure...but considering the lack of options to detect the spoiled one, it feels cruel.

Speaking of cruel: You see, the aforementioned lackey of the wizard's been gone for many a year, frustrated by the constant misuse by his cruel master...whose spell he sabotaged, trapping the wizard in a circle of salt. The PCs can find the old stargazer. He's been standing, upright and still, confined in the circle, for more than 50 years and his mood is foul...but he does try to put on a benevolent Dumbledore-act...and if the PCs buy it, he asks them to go. If they refuse, he drops his act and becomes threatening. But as long as the PCs don't do anything, he can't do jack. It's the choice and consequence paradigm.

At the same time, the wizard tower depicted here feels very much magical: Within these halls, one can find a levitation shaft used to navigate it, a frozen storage containing vials of blood (which animates and becomes aggressive) and a ghost custodian of the eldritch section of the wizard's library. This ghost challenges the PCs to a game: Select chess, darts, anything you have that can engage your players and potentially is over quick to not stall the game...if you're too good at chess, for example, and doubt that your players could beat you...well, then don't play chess. Why? Well, if the PC fails, the ghost is freed and the PC dies, taking its place. There is no salvation for the eternal guardian here.

One highlight of the exploration of the dungeon would certainly be the wizard's workshop, where an acidic pool of liquid contains strange fish and a complex telescope-like device allows for the opening of the tower's roof...and perhaps the most hilarious, amazing and mean part of the module: All this arcane machinery pertains the wizard's studies: He's been obsessed with other planets and wanted to learn to get there.

Unless the PCs were VERY thorough with their research, they may be in for a surprise: Looking through the telescope, they can see strange entities on another planet. With some serious experimentation, item-use and the like, they can use the device to fire a transport-beam t the planet...but unless they have VERY carefully done their research (unlikely), any PC foolish enough to try to use this beam will be transported to that planet...his molecular consistence changed to something that is considered a delicacy there...and he'll be eaten/drunk/slurped up. (And yes, there is an artwork of a view of the entities...) This whole procedure requires A LOT of effort on part of the PCs, is mean and memorable and pretty unlikely to happen...but it exemplifies to a degree the philosophy of magic being very dangerous, demanding respect.

Oh, and regarding internal logic: It makes sense. Traps and dangers are where intruders shouldn't be. When the PCs find a corpse, sewn up with gold thread in the basements and loot the thread, they'll be attacked by the animated organs inside - deservedly so, I might add! Another aspect I'd consider haphazard in its design: Several magic mirrors provide either significant benefits...or suck in a character, consuming his soul after 3 days, with no means of saving him: Breaking the mirror kills the PC. Sure, anyone who's read Kull-stories knows that gazing into wizard mirrors is a bad idea...but still. Somewhat akin to a deck of many things in its randomness, without the warning the item carries. There is no way to determine the function of mirrors before, btw. - no reward for being smart or observant. Such unfair sections are what tarnish this module in my book, which is a pity, for the atmosphere evoked is cool indeed: In which other module can the PCs find a 16-armed skeleton in a cell...complete with artwork...and have it have no function apart from sparking the player's imagination? The dressing and details are great and evocative.

Heck, the module even has a puzzle - a simple one, but yeah: The treasure chests are contained beyond damaging force fields and the PCs will have to manipulate a console and try to find the right combination to lower the force-fields and gain access to the significant treasures contained in the wizard's vault...provided they don't panic and run into them when they're separated by them...you see, if your PCs believe they can smash their problems away, they'll be in for a rude awakening that is bound to be pretty terminal: There is a very real possibility of the whole tower blowing up in a devastating nova if the PCs try to use brute force to solve the problems of e.g. the workshop. I get it. The angle here is to cultivate a consciousness for when to tamper with something and when not to...but, at least in my opinion, Grinding Gear and Hammers of the God did that job much, much better.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to a nice and easy to read two-column b/w-standard. The b/w-artworks provided herein are amazing, particularly for showing weirdness rather than the usual suspects of monsters, rooms, etc. - they show stuff when it matters that it has an artwork. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The softcover booklet is printed darker than the pdf, being mostly grey-black...which, ironically, enhances rather than detracts from the artworks...though the cover is pretty much a mush of black, the stairs nearly imperceptible. Cartography is detailed and functional b/w, with furniture etc. included. there are no player-friendly maps included as a cut-up handouts or the like.

James Edward Raggi IV's "Tower of the Stargazer" is actually a well-written crawl through a wizard's tower - as in: The ideas and environments are amazing, the things that can be found are interesting and the emphasis on player choice refreshing: The more greedy the PCs are, the higher is the chance they'll die horribly. And, for the most part, the module is fair in its risk-reward-ratios. For the most part, for there are a couple of scenes, some save-or-die-sections, that can only be described as dickish and completely out of left field.

Where Hammers of the God rewarded deliberate exploration and meticulous respect for the environment and its story, where Grinding Gear's whole set-up required care, precision and a keen mind, this one has this tint of haphazardness not only within the roll of the dice, but within its underlying structure. It feels a bit like an "You must be this tough to play here."-sign that exaggerates subjective flaws (or merits, depending on your perspective) and clichés some folks attribute to old-school gaming. In short: This was obviously written, at least in parts, as a kind of proving ground highlighting some of the best, but also some of the worst aspects of old-school gaming. As a whole, this feels, at least to me, like the weakest of the early LotFP-modules. It showcases the aspects that made the other modules stand out and has the very distinct narrative identity, but, both in comment and design, it also requires you to buy into a certain mindset of capriciousness when it comes to the lives of PCs that contradicts the paradigm of successfully letting PCs dig their own graves, so perfectly exemplified by the telescope, the animated organs, etc..

I like this module, but as a whole, I do feel like it undermines its own point regarding the way to game it tries to teach. Then again, perhaps I'm overanalyzing this and the module's playtest ran too smooth, requiring a couple of middle-finger save-or-sucks. I don't know. If you enjoy HARD, brutal and unforgiving modules, if you don't mind a very real potential for a sudden, not entirely deserved PC-death, then this makes for a great, challenging and atmospheric dungeon. If you firmly adhere to the "reap what you've sown"-school of GMing, I'd suggest getting Grinding Gear or Hammers of the God instead. How to rate this, then? Well, this is not a bad module, but neither did it blow me away. For groups that like the dark and weird that consider themselves to be hardcore...this is worth checking out. As for my final verdict...well, while for me as a person, this is closer to 4 stars than 3, as a reviewer, I can't round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Daniel N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/27/2016 10:43:04

Ran this for a group of 6, 3 had never played RPGs, 3 had never played Lamentaions.. It was a huge hit and I look forward to running it again as I can see very different results with different groups.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Frank R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/02/2015 10:11:22

It took us two session to play through this adventure. It is indeed well suited for a new group of players and first-level characters. We used D&D 5e. A few adjustments were needed becuase of this, but it was simple enough to do. Placing the tower in a larger campaign is no problem. It is self-contained. Does not rely on anything outside the tower and won't affect anything outside.

I think everyone enjoyed this weird little trip. Like, a LOT.

Things that may not be clear from the description:

  1. The adventure is low on combat. If the players are smart, they can actually avoid almost every single combat encounter. Which may a good thing.
  2. The adventure assumes a certain level of technology. The title should be a hint that it takes place in a world where stuff like telescopes exist. If you want to use this in a pre-renaissance setting, you may have to shift things around a bit.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Christopher T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2014 22:11:03

I've run this once so far and will run it again. It's very nice for new GM's (which I'm not) because of the elaboration of WHY things are what they are and some deeper explanations of how things work. If this had come out in the late 70's instead of B1, it would have been much easier to assume my eventual role as a perpetual DM.

The adventure itself is sort of like Dungeon Quest. The deeper you go and more stuff you try to mess with, the higher chance you have of not making it out. There are very difficult choices to be made in the tower, and during our one play, half the characters died based on those choices. In every case, there are clear warnings that something bad could happen in certain areas so no one minded too much. I would say as a starting adventure to get players used to the tone of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, this is better than The God That Crawls while the latter actually has a better chance of character's surviving, it doesn't feel like it since it's once huge trap.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2010 17:05:16

Tower of the Stargazer is an adventure for OSRIC/Labyrinth Lord style systems and is suitable for beginner players and referees. The adventure takes place in a mystical mage's tower, where the characters must deal with all sorts of obstacles and traps en route to finding the answers to their questions or merely the treasure foretold to be there. The adventure is well written and presented, and I particularly appreciated the design notes and explanations offered by the author on various scenarios, justifying encounter and design decisions (even if I didn't agree with all of them). In essence it's a rather simple adventure, completely location based, with little follow-up or opportunity for much further beyond this. However, the background information and adventure detail are enough to make this a fun romp.

The adventure is focused more on navigating the tower's defenses and locations rather than infiltrating a well-guarded area. While there are combat encounters to be had, these are actually quite few given the number of tower locations. Here I wish proper details on statistics had been included, rather than the vague references contained in the product. The traps and puzzles in the adventure are quite clever (particularly the elaborate ones related to the telescope and the treasure levers), and the majority of them make sense even without the author's complete design notes. However, I'm not really in agreement with the deadly nature of the adventure, even if it does make sense. Beginner players don't want to have their characters die ten minutes into the game. And while it can be justified, I think it can turn players away. It felt in places like the adventure was more for a sadistic referee to have fun with rather than the players characters to learn the ropes of a new system or roleplaying in general.

Be that as it may, I think the adventure has some merit. There's good atmosphere around the tower and its confines, and the wonderful art will make for good handouts to inspire and creep players out. I wish in a way the adventure had been a little more dynamic - as is, there's nothing stopping the characters taking their time through the adventure. One other point of note is that this adventure can end rather quickly. While well designed to be rather non-linear in how it can be played, a few lucky choices can see the main encounter done pretty soon. Overall, perhaps not so much geared to teaching new players as new referees, but an adventure with lots of opportunity for cleverness, good puzzles and good atmosphere.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Stargazer
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/06/2010 14:43:47

So, what do you get for your purchase? More then you might expect. You get 43 pages crammed full of text and maps with cover art by Peter Mullen.

Now, as for those 43 pages, James outdid himself. Seriously. The adventure itself is excellent and extremely deadly (as one would expect with Raggi writing it). Its not just another Wizard's Tower. But that's not where the value lies. The value is in James' notes. Notes on the playtest, what worked and what didn't. Notes on WHY he wrote something one way, and not another way. Notes that just about any DM will read and say "I just learned something useful". All that hidden like little Easter Eggs in an an already sweet piece of work.

Add it is nicely bookmarked - which isnt as common as it should be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Displaying 1 to 6 (of 6 reviews) Result Pages:  1 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG