Right after TSR released BattleSystem, they provided it with a fairly extensive scenario package/AD&D adventure, re-using what had been the original name of the project: Bloodstone Pass. This also kicked off the H-series modules for ‘High-level’ AD&D parties. From the designation, it was probably envisioned as another anthology series like ‘N’ and ‘I’ with no concrete settings, however, the H-series ended up only hosting the direct sequels to this adventure involving the barony of Bloodstone.

As was typical in 1985, no setting was specified, and in fact the surrounding lands of Vaasa and Damara were created specifically for it. However, it was also assumed that it would be in the world of Greyhawk like all the other contemporary modules (“The greatest show on Oerth is playing here for three days only!”), but again, Vaasa and Damara are not pre-existing parts of that setting, and I’ve seen no one speculating on good places to fit them in. Of course, the reason for that is they are now part of the Forgotten Realms setting. Part of the Great Glacier was eliminated from Greenwood’s original version (and eventually some history of the melting of the glacier added) to make room for these  new countries, and the final module in the series carried a Forgotten Realms logo.

BloodstonePhysically, the module is unique, coming in an oversized slim box that contained the main adventure book, a BattleSystem roster book, a sheet of counters (that match ones that came with the BattleSystem set, but with fancier artwork), and several sheets for fold up buildings and characters. These last items make a complete set quite rare today, and I’m a little sad that I cannot find any photos of these last in action online. Since the bulk of the action is around the village of Bloodstone, the 3D buildings are meant to set up the entire village in BattleSystem scale: The bulk of small buildings were handled with just a few reversible facades that could also show burned ruins or woods. Four notable shops got identical buildings, though fences and troughs could be added to make each one a little different. Larger and more complicated were the centerpieces for character interaction: the Dancing Clown Inn, the Abbey of St. Solars the Twice-Martyred (not really an abbey), and the baron’s manor. Finally, there was a well, fountain, gallows, and a section of town wall. As I recall, they were fairly well designed and went together well, though there were a lot of small complex parts in places. (Sadly, they also take up a fair amount of room assembled, and mine were abandoned in a move; likely a common fate.) There’s also a sheet of ten NPCs in TSR’s typical triangular stand-up pattern.

(Note: there are minor spoilers of the plot from here on, though I’ve kept them fairly oblique.)

The initial hook has the (presumably 15th level) characters as refugees (along with a lot of other people) of the breakup and conquest of Damara after its army was routed last summer. The module recommends that characters be limited to about 100 gp and three magic items apiece, with assurances that high-level characters build up so many limited items that this won’t draw many protests. Someone has an amazingly generous view of the acquisitive nature of most players. Or the pre-generated characters could be used (that seems safer to me). A little scene setting, and a few moderately tough monsters later, and the characters have impressed a couple of boys who make the first job offer they’ve heard in some time, “We can pay five silver pieces a day to each of you!”

Well, that may not sound attractive to high-level adventurers, but most players should be willing to at least talk to them, and once it becomes clear that this is headed to a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven scenario (if the DM didn’t pitch it as such to begin with), most parties should be willing to buy into it. The journey from Valls (where the adventure opens) to Bloodstone Pass is well-covered, with a rough map outlining where the party will end up each day, with a number of optional encounters that can be randomly rolled for (mostly refugees and the like early on, shifting to specific non-human encounters near the destination).

The village itself gets six pages of description, plus a couple maps, one of which is designed to be laid out on a 4’x8′ table for miniatures combat (using all the 3D buildings, of course). It’s not the best presented town ever, but thumbnails of some prominent people are given, and there’s a nice set of tables for generating random villagers when needed. The few interior plans given are more functional and schematic than meant for detailed play (after all, the main encounters will be outside with armies!), but the plans given for the baronial manor need a complete re-do. There’s one flub in the descriptions which refers to there being more rooms than there are, but most importantly, it’s all crammed into one floor, when by the 3D paper version, there should be two or three floors. And even given the somewhat abbreviated functional nature of the plans, there’s no accounting for the wall thickness inherent in someplace as well fortified as the manor looks. That said, the features given are about right, and the exact layout can either be ignored, or just shifting the given one around a bunch. The model has some large windows, and no arrow slits, while otherwise looking fairly solid. And there’s no indications of the windows shown on the model in the floor plans (which would help).

A solid timetable is provided for the DM to figure out how much time the PCs have to get the villagers behind them, organize the available forces, and work on defenses. A couple new BattleSystem rules are presented for ramparts and ditches, and guidelines for the time it takes to construct them and do training. A number of optional sub-plots are presented, and I’d call a couple of them effectively mandatory, considering their effect on other events. There will be a small number of battles, escalating in size and intensity, and the DM is advised (rightly so!) to get help with the opposition for the climax as there will be a fair amount of high-level magic flying around.

Like with I14, using this module demands a group that’s willing to command troops in a miniatures battle as well as adventure, but it is much better focused, and doesn’t imply a campaign that keeps switching gears; this adventure warns you large-scale combat is coming, and then ratchets it up to a climatic confrontation (it is also much more up front about the tie-in with the large BattleSystem logo on the cover). The first battles should be fairly manageable, but the action scales up fast, and non-wargaming players (and DM!) may get overwhelmed by the end. However, if you really have a group that’s adventured up to about 15th level, they should be fairly well prepared to handle the powerful NPCs that also show up to complicate things (there is one encounter—in the middle of other events—with one right solution). Cutting everything back to bare bones, I could see this taking about four longish sessions, with most of the role-playing/sub-plots sacrificed. More likely, there’d be two or three sessions before any battles at all, with at least one more session per battle afterward (there could also be non-battle sessions in between). The module wraps up with a good synopsis of of what happens after, win or lose, and sets up for further adventures.