[Realmspace] Undermountain: Stardock

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Big Mac
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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?
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
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vestcoat
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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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