15

Dungeon Module FA2
Nightmare Keep

(1991)

 

 

 

Nightmare Keep

by Rick Swan

 

 

 

 

Design:

Rick Swan

 

 

 

Editing:

Allen Varney

 

 

 

Cartography:

Dennis Kauth

 

 

 

Keylining:

Paul Hanchette

 

 

 

Typesetting:

Tracey Zamagne

 

 

 

Cover Art:

Brom

 

 

 

Interior Art:

Valerie Valusek, Terry Dykstra

 

 

 

 

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After reading through this adventure page by page, line by line, I think I understand why people claimed that second-edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons fell apart at higher levels.  If this was the best that the company making adventures for it could put out, then what hope do we have for high school kids to find inspiration out of the ether?  It’s a shame, really, because at the end of the line, second-edition AD&D came out with some excellent products, including Return to the Tomb of Horrors and Labyrinth of Madness.

But whereas Labyrinth of Madness involves finding a series of sigils (McGuffins) in order to get through the maze, Nightmare Keep does the same by means of endless repetition.  It doesn’t matter whether the characters are low level or high level, it’s no fun to crawl through three different crawlspaces, and encounter numerous rooms where magical spears fly out at you just for stepping too close to the entry way.  The same encounters ad nauseum.  I was floored, because I remembered this adventure fondly from my youth, only to see that all those pages I had only skimmed were not filled with genius but rather the same idea in green, violet and black.

Good ideas?  Oh, yes.  The adventure itself is a fabulous idea.  And the small villages the adventurers must travel through while seeking out the titular keep each have a nicely distinctive flavor that helps to separate them one from another.  Wolover’s Keep itself is also a strong dungeon crawl, and the underwater lake still stands out in the memories of the players who died fighting the zombie dragon turtle (and back then I didn’t read closely enough to realize there were actually two in that area…Just imagine how differently things would have gone!). 

Icelia herself is also a treacherous and enjoyable villains, as are the numerous ways of discerning information about her.  One of the hardest aspects of a dungeon crawl is organically lacing the journey with bits of information about the villain at the end, and Nightmare Keep excels at this.  If only there had been a few more original ideas, or if an editor would have stepped in and trimmed down that massive poster map just a little…

Realm Rating: 3.5/5

 


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All of the preceding modules and game worlds are trademarked property of TSR Inc, which is now the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. I take no credit for the stories or ideas presented here, I merely converted them to a playable format for SSI's Unlimited Adventures game.