[Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

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[Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:58 pm

I won't lie. The primary reason I'm interested in Undermountain: Stardock (and Undermountain in general) is that Undermountain: Stardock links this Forgotten Realms megadungeon to an asteroid in the Tears of Selûne (called Stardock). :halo:

I've already got a topic, from three years back, about Stardock itself, so I'm not going to ask questions about Stardock in this topic. But what I would want to know is what people think of this adventure?

Has anyone run this? What do you think of it? How does it compare to the plot in other Undermountain products?

Billed as a Dungeon Crawl, Undermountain: Stardock follows on from two other Dungeon Crawl products (Undermountain: The Lost Level and Undermountain: Maddgoth's Castle). Do I need either of those to run Undermountain: Stardock or does it work fine on it's own?

The main Undermountain product is The Ruins of Undermountain. Do you need that or is it possible to run Undermountain: Stardock without The Ruins of Undermountain?

How about Waterdeep, and the surrounding area? Are there any Forgotten Realms products that you think would be needed to provide the background detail leading up to Undermountain: Stardock?
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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by vestcoat » Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am

I haven't DM'd Stardock, but I'm a big fan of Undermountain: the Lost Level and I've read the first Undermountain boxset, the whole Dungeon Crawl line, and some later products, so I can give a few answers and (strong) opinions.

After years of linear, plot heavy modules in the early Nineties, The Dungeon Crawls were a welcome breath of fresh air when Lost Level hit the shelves. I don't play FR, but Lost Level was/is such an excellent, old school, self-contained dungeon that I was an instant fan of the series and bought every subsequent module. Unfortunately, the next few works were progressively worse and the Crawls didn't get better again until the last two (Dungeon of Death and The Lost Shrine of Bundushatur). Stardock is the nadir of the six scenarios, IMO. ANYWAY...

Stardock could be self contained if a DM strips it down and throws away literally half of the material. Stardock thoroughly breaks the rules of the Dungeon Crawl line that were laid out in Lost Level -- it's strongly tied to the Realms and it references tons of other products. There's also way more fluff than Lost Level, with pages and pages of boxed text, background, hooks, rumors, NPC history, spells, excessive art, half-empty pages, etc. etc. Most of it is just fun DM reading material and doesn't add value for the players. The actual adventure starts on page 17, halfway through the module!

(SPOILERS)

The plot revolves around a major, high-level, FR NPC and a localized save-the-world scenario. Endless references to Waterdeep and Undermountain, but a DM could ignore all of that. The setup gives the PC's a shortcut to the module starting point so they don't need to plumb the rest of the dungeon and the DM doesn't need the boxed set. A real stickler for canon could pick up the first UM boxed set and one of the dozen products that have detailed Waterdeep over the years to add an appropriate layer of background and detail, but it's not necessary. The adventure technically starts in Waterdeep, so yeah, maybe grab a cheap, early Waterdeep product and read up. The Undermountain box is completely unnecessary unless a DM wants extra background (spoiler: it's a crazy wizard funhouse dungeon. Because magic.) and the dungeon dressing reference card. Stardock has absolutely nothing to do with the first two modules (Lost Level and Madgoth's Castle), other than proximity.

On to the scenario...
There are some interesting ideas. The first two-thirds of the adventure take place in an invisible maze with a few special features and physical quirks. This is probably fun and disorienting for an hour or so of playtime. There's only a few encounter areas and I imagine describing and mapping a maze with invisible walls would get tedious fast. The author provides recommendations to deal with this, but it still boils down to mapping a maze with few encounters.

Pages 25-31 detail the asteroid. There's two or three keyed areas on the surface and a small subterranean dungeon. True to its Lankhmar-stolen name, Stardock contains a dock for space-faring ships. No details or SJ content, mind you, just a statement that the DM can add Spelljammer connections to an empty dock.

Finally, the PC's get to meet the epic-level NPC and stand in his presence in overshadowed awe. Of course, the DM is encouraged to maintain Ed Greenwood's status quo and to make sure PC's don't rock the boat or impact the world.

Technically, the module has major problems with editing, typos, and map key errors. It's been twenty years since I've read it word for word, but I remember little, seventeen-year-old vestcoat being so shocked at the errors that I actually started writing them down and assembled a fair list. I probably intended to write to Sage Advice to complain and ask for clarifications, but never did.

Overall, there are some good fights and dungeon ideas I haven't seen before. Whether one likes Stardock depends on personal taste. It's really not bad for players that enjoy background fluff, boxed text, save-the-world-plots, and epic-level NPC's. I don't. It's probably best for DM's willing to slash, burn, and cannibalize modules. There truly are good encounters for upper-mid-level PC's and cool locations under all of the filler. Buy if it's cheap.

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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by Halvor » Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:01 am

If its the adventure I think it it, then I played it about 20 years ago. If it has a flying snake delivering a message, the promise of a nice estate outside Waterdeep as a reward, has Sea Lions, and ends on an asteroid formerly controlled by mind flayers in orbit then I played in it.

It worked well without the rest of undermountain. The DM that ran it did not know what Undermountain was. He was a die hard Dragonlance fan and did not keep up with other settings, even though he ran his own homebrewed campaign.

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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:49 pm

vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
I haven't DM'd Stardock, but I'm a big fan of Undermountain: the Lost Level and I've read the first Undermountain boxset, the whole Dungeon Crawl line, and some later products, so I can give a few answers and (strong) opinions.

After years of linear, plot heavy modules in the early Nineties, The Dungeon Crawls were a welcome breath of fresh air when Lost Level hit the shelves. I don't play FR, but Lost Level was/is such an excellent, old school, self-contained dungeon that I was an instant fan of the series and bought every subsequent module. Unfortunately, the next few works were progressively worse and the Crawls didn't get better again until the last two (Dungeon of Death and The Lost Shrine of Bundushatur). Stardock is the nadir of the six scenarios, IMO. ANYWAY...

Stardock could be self contained if a DM strips it down and throws away literally half of the material. Stardock thoroughly breaks the rules of the Dungeon Crawl line that were laid out in Lost Level -- it's strongly tied to the Realms and it references tons of other products. There's also way more fluff than Lost Level, with pages and pages of boxed text, background, hooks, rumors, NPC history, spells, excessive art, half-empty pages, etc. etc. Most of it is just fun DM reading material and doesn't add value for the players. The actual adventure starts on page 17, halfway through the module!
Hmm. I was looking for a way to get Undermountain: Stardock to fit in well with the other products, but you seem to be suggesting that it needs to be rebooted.

Is that because you don't like the reference to the Realms and other products or because you think they stop the plot working properly?
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
(SPOILERS)

The plot revolves around a major, high-level, FR NPC and a localized save-the-world scenario. Endless references to Waterdeep and Undermountain, but a DM could ignore all of that. The setup gives the PC's a shortcut to the module starting point so they don't need to plumb the rest of the dungeon and the DM doesn't need the boxed set. A real stickler for canon could pick up the first UM boxed set and one of the dozen products that have detailed Waterdeep over the years to add an appropriate layer of background and detail, but it's not necessary. The adventure technically starts in Waterdeep, so yeah, maybe grab a cheap, early Waterdeep product and read up. The Undermountain box is completely unnecessary unless a DM wants extra background (spoiler: it's a crazy wizard funhouse dungeon. Because magic.) and the dungeon dressing reference card. Stardock has absolutely nothing to do with the first two modules (Lost Level and Madgoth's Castle), other than proximity.
Thanks. It's good to know that the Undermountain boxed set is optional there.

I did find the Return to Undermountain archive, while doing research for Undermountain: Stardock, so perhaps I could use that if I want to go outside of what is in Undermountain: Stardock itself. :)

I guess that, from what you said about it having nothing to do with the first two modules, that they would mostly be useful for establishing a link between the PCs and Undermountain (so that NPCs would think of the as "experts" and come to them for help).
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
On to the scenario...
There are some interesting ideas. The first two-thirds of the adventure take place in an invisible maze with a few special features and physical quirks. This is probably fun and disorienting for an hour or so of playtime. There's only a few encounter areas and I imagine describing and mapping a maze with invisible walls would get tedious fast. The author provides recommendations to deal with this, but it still boils down to mapping a maze with few encounters.
Is the maze thing how Undermountain normally works?

Or would I be better off inserting a few rooms from Return to Undermountain or Halls of Undermountain?
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
Pages 25-31 detail the asteroid. There's two or three keyed areas on the surface and a small subterranean dungeon. True to its Lankhmar-stolen name, Stardock contains a dock for space-faring ships. No details or SJ content, mind you, just a statement that the DM can add Spelljammer connections to an empty dock.
I didn't realise this was stolen from Lankhmar. I might have to start a topic in the Lankhmar forum to find out more.

Stardock isn't detailed in SJR2 Realmspace but I have added it to my Realmspace - the Forgotten Realms/Spelljammer crossover topic. I want to expand the SJ background, at some point. (Although right now I want to sort out what to do at the Undermountain end.)
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
Finally, the PC's get to meet the epic-level NPC and stand in his presence in overshadowed awe. Of course, the DM is encouraged to maintain Ed Greenwood's status quo and to make sure PC's don't rock the boat or impact the world.
Hmm. Well now I've read your post, I'm wondering if I would be better off swapping out Hallister for a less important (and more expendable) NPC.
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
Technically, the module has major problems with editing, typos, and map key errors. It's been twenty years since I've read it word for word, but I remember little, seventeen-year-old vestcoat being so shocked at the errors that I actually started writing them down and assembled a fair list. I probably intended to write to Sage Advice to complain and ask for clarifications, but never did.
I noticed that the gravity plane is wrong on the maps of Stardock, but have not noticed the other errors.

From what you say, it looks like I need to make a couple of passes through the book to get a good idea of how it works and so that I can start seeing the bugs.

Thanks for the heads up.
vestcoat wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 am
Overall, there are some good fights and dungeon ideas I haven't seen before. Whether one likes Stardock depends on personal taste. It's really not bad for players that enjoy background fluff, boxed text, save-the-world-plots, and epic-level NPC's. I don't. It's probably best for DM's willing to slash, burn, and cannibalize modules. There truly are good encounters for upper-mid-level PC's and cool locations under all of the filler. Buy if it's cheap.
Well, for me it's a Toril/Realmspace link, and there are not too many of those, so I want to make the best of it.

I'll have to have a real think about the "save the world" plot thing, as I do think that can cause a gameworld to get destroyed, if the PCs don't carry out the objective. I'm not sure that's a thing I would want to go with.

Perhaps swapping that to a plot with more of a Wildspace connection (like plot by slavers to use Stardock and Undermountain as a way to extract slaves kidnapped from Waterdeep) could work for me.
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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:51 pm

Halvor wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:01 am
If its the adventure I think it it, then I played it about 20 years ago. If it has a flying snake delivering a message, the promise of a nice estate outside Waterdeep as a reward, has Sea Lions, and ends on an asteroid formerly controlled by mind flayers in orbit then I played in it.

It worked well without the rest of undermountain. The DM that ran it did not know what Undermountain was. He was a die hard Dragonlance fan and did not keep up with other settings, even though he ran his own homebrewed campaign.
Thanks.

I didn't notice the flying snake. I'll have a look out for that, when I read it.

But Stardock is a Tear of Selûne that used to be a mind-flayer port.
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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by AuldDragon » Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:01 am

Big Mac wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:49 pm
I noticed that the gravity plane is wrong on the maps of Stardock, but have not noticed the other errors.
As I mentioned in this thread, the gravity plane is fine. The ladder at 8 on the orange-y map of Stardock is 150 feet deep, and at 80 feet down, the PCs encounter the gravity plane. The entire section detailed on that map is fully on one side of the gravity plane, and the area encompassing 1A through 1C is an open-to-the-sky gorge with no ceiling. The stairs shown in the inset diagram ascend from the floor of the gorge to the top of the cliff.

Hit me up on my Discord tomorrow if you want me to go over it with you more.

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Re: [Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

Post by Big Mac » Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:39 pm

AuldDragon wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:01 am
Big Mac wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2018 12:49 pm
I noticed that the gravity plane is wrong on the maps of Stardock, but have not noticed the other errors.
As I mentioned in this thread, the gravity plane is fine. The ladder at 8 on the orange-y map of Stardock is 150 feet deep, and at 80 feet down, the PCs encounter the gravity plane. The entire section detailed on that map is fully on one side of the gravity plane, and the area encompassing 1A through 1C is an open-to-the-sky gorge with no ceiling. The stairs shown in the inset diagram ascend from the floor of the gorge to the top of the cliff.

Hit me up on my Discord tomorrow if you want me to go over it with you more.
OK. Thanks. I'll go reread that bit to see what the text said about the weird bits in the middle of those staircases, before I talk to you.

But this topic is supposed to mostly be about the connection this adventure has to Undermountain, so I'll try not to derail my own topic. ;)
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