They Came from the Stars

By Simon Forster
“and the sky full of dust” blog
OD&D
Levels 1-3

This little adventure is a brief village/countryside investigation and exploration of a small spaceship. It’s got a strong OD&D feel, is very lightweight, provides some decent imagery, and, all in all, is a nice little outline to running an adventure.

Villagers are disappearing. Green monsters have been seen in the area. Please, won’t anyone help! This is a cute little D&D adventure with a strong OD&D vibe. Aliens have landed and are abducting villagers, mutilating cattle, doing weird experiments, and generally being a pain. The villagers are terrified of the Greenies and are looking for help. There are some hooks provided that are generally not very good. The local baron hiring someone to deal with it (why aren’t you dealing with it yourself?), a friend disappearing (which is why all PC’s, and everyone I know, make have no family or friends, so they can’t be used as leverage against us) or Arnold the pathetic and obviously desperate and scared looking for help. Of these Arnold is the best, mostly because of that brief description of Arnold. It begs the question of why Baron Jackass isn’t doing his job. But since that’s ALWAYS overlooked in adventure design we’ll overlook it here also. The rumor table is very generic and uninteresting. People have been going missing, the Greenies are evil clerics, cows have been mount with holes in them and drained of blood. It’s all presented in a rather fact based style. That table could have been great with a little local colour added to it.

The village of Appleby is described on two pages. There’s not much here but what there is has been done with a lot of good things to riff off of. You get a very nice picture painted of a village in terror. The constable is locked in his office, slowing dying because he is too terrified to leave after an encounter with the Greenies. The locals gather in the church at night to pray and for defense. The fields are full of mutilated cows, some farms lie abandoned with signs of blood, violence, and a smokey stench in the air. There’s not really any villagers described well, except the constable. There’s a throw-away mention of a barkeep and the priest but there’s not enough there to really bring them to life. A little more there, and a couple of farmers, would have helped this section a lot. The place still gets a very desperate and scared vibe associated with it, so overall I’d say the designer does a pretty decent of setting the village mood.

The surrounding countryside gets a nice little write-up also. There are four or five little places scattered around to visit, in addition to the spaceship. A hermit in the midst of a religious revival because of the aliens, some bandits who have been devastated from alien abductions, a barrow, and some escaped slaves of the aliens. The scale here is 1 hex equals 2 miles. While the Hermit is on a path the others are in the countryside. They need some sort of connection, or leads, I think. Drop a couple of hints in the village, or put some clues about the bandits in the hermit and the slaves form the bandits, and so on. I like the individual encounters. The hermit is a unique guy, the bandits get a little write up, as do the slaves. In the case of the bandits and slaves you get a good overall vibe without any description of the individuals. Like the village the overall mood is communicated well but you don’t really get told that Boris the bandit is protective of his brother bob and worried because he was taken. A little more would have perhaps would have triggered some hireling/ally stuff, but then again I think the current write-up is pretty close to the line. I certainly came up with that and I suspect other DM’s would have as well, so perhaps there’s no need to mention or imply that. The slaves proper are mutilated with machine parts grafted on. A couple of more sentences about that would have gone a long way. The final area is the protective dome that surrounds the area around the ship. This is a pretty nice little area with an abandoned mine running under things, a radiation disposal pit, a crab tank to play with, animal pens to screw around with, and the spaceship proper crudely buried under a hill. The entire area is quite nice, each site just getting a sentence or two write up but the entire place working together to provide a nice little scene to explore. It’s just over he edge of being useful in terms of detail and length. Any less and it would be generic. More would add to things, but probably be unnecessary. Just enough to riff on and add your own flavor to. I like it.

The spaceship is tersely described. The aliens carry death ray guns (which are effectively magic missile wands) and force fields (belts of the Shield spell) and things like that. That’s very nice. I like the idiosyncratic nature and yet the way in which it makes sense. Most of the ships rooms have something weird and interesting on, from green good pools to glass tubes to half-machine people to large glass cylinders full of goo. The only negative may be a disconnect in how the Greenies react. There’s no real notes on an organized defense, and yet its pretty much stated that the captain is monitoring every room via the monitors all the time. That’s a gap to be filled.The adventure ends up with a nice little wandering monster table that covers four different areas (village, county, dome, ship) with six results each, each with enough detail to run it well. A wounded cow wandering alone. Slaves looking for new subjects. Bandits returning home with a dead deer. Escaped villager, fleeing. Greenie patrolling. Enough to run a nice little encounter.

This thing isn’t going to win any awards but it is a nice solid little OD&D vibe adventure. It’s what you WANT to find when you download an adventure off the Internet. It’s not professional. It’s not long. It’s a bit clunky in places. But it’s solid.

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