This is a review of the second half of a paired set of modules - UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet.
For more, see my reviews page.
By Graeme Morris
Published 1984 by TSR
32 pages plus tri-fold folder cover (with monster roster and maps)
$6.00 in PDF
UK3 The Gauntlet is a sequel to UK3 The Sentinel. In this adventure, the PCs who recovered the Sentinel in the previous adventure (or in a mini-version of it, if you want to skip right to UK3) have to seize a castle in the mountains held by forces carrying the Gauntlet, an evil mirror of the sentient good artifact.
The PCs have to assault the castle, but thanks to their artifact can bypass some of the defenses. Also, the chaotic evil forces that hold the castle are pretty lackadaisical - and many of them are drunk, in what is the only use of the AD&D intoxication rules I remember coming across.
Once in the castle, the PCs have an issue - their foe holes up in a hidey-hole and an army, led by a giant, comes to the castle to retrieve his kidnapped daughter (all part of the evil bad guy's plan). The PCs need to repel and assault and then figure a way out of the mess they've fought their way into. There is a pretty clear way out but many options are open if the PCs care to try alternatives.
Like the previous adventure, the keep feels lived in. Drunk guards, long-abandoned areas, interesting monsters (again, lots of Fiend Folio here), nice touches on the foes to make them memorable beyond just some HP without making them into true characters (mostly) . . . the adventure areas just feel natural and unforced.
Great, useful touches are a set of maps that depict the keep from outside and above with the giant's army unit paths, an army organization table with cross-out boxed for casualties with monster stats on the same page directly above it, and useful and actually effective battle tactics by the giant.
Like the previous adventure, the art is good, plentiful, and useful.
Nice touches in this adventure - in both, really, but more noticeable here - is that backstory more or less emerges from play. Where the PCs in the first adventure can succeed without really getting the who, where, and why of the previous adventure, in this one it is both more important and easier to discover.
As I mentioned in my review of UK2 The Sentinel, this module figured into a few campaigns. In my last GURPS game, we had some very memorable moments in both adventures. This one in particular, though, had some great moments, high and low. Lows include a PC getting killed when he made a foolish tactical choice in a fight with some gnolls; the next session his player brought a new PC who I had them discover as a prisoner. That one promptly died in the very next room fighting an ogre. Sigh. The big mass combat brawl was exciting, with PCs using magic from the murder holes, fending off the flying attackers (I swapped in giant ravens and orcs riding hippogriffs) from the roof and from within the keep, and one half-ogre PC holding the door against incoming orcs (swapped in for the hobgoblins) all by himself. It was really exciting and memorable.
The PCs handled negotiations with the giant - named only Bloodfire in the module, named Bloodfire Vorsthammer in my game (and his daughter, Moldred Vorsthammer*) - quite well. They talked (everyone does eventually), they freed his daughter, and they sent him on his way. The final resolution with The Gauntlet was also quite cool, and the PCs held on to the remnants of the Gauntlet stuck with the PCs for a long, long time until they traded them to a powerful wizard for timely help.
Really, this adventure had a great impact on the game I launched with it. I love the mixed aspect - assault the fortress, hold the fortress, deal with a deadline and a puzzle combined with deadly combat. It's a lot more tightly focused than The Sentinel in that it's almost entirely within a single structure, but it plays well and feels like the logical conclusion of the combined adventure.
How is this for GURPS?
Like UK2, this one rolls fine with GURPS. It takes conversion but again, for a moderate-point fantasy party (mine was 150 points in 3e terms) it's challenging without being murder to complete.
Overall: This and its predecessor are a couple of my favorite adventures of all time. I highly recommend checking them out - they read well and play even better than they read. Highly recommended.
* Moldred coming from Frank Zappa, who suggested that as a name to Howard Stern when the radio host was having a daughter. The name stuck with me forever, so, I had this giant name his daughter Moldred.