Most of my retrospective posts focus on games or game products produced between 1974 and 1983, the period I call the Golden Age of D&D, because it's the period when the game was still expanding outward rather than inward. It's also closely associated with my early involvement in the hobby, when I paid a lot more attention to the games and game products released than I did in later years. Consequently, if I remember a product published after 1983, it must be memorable in some way, whether good or bad.
1986's Night's Dark Terror is pretty solidly in the former category. Written by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher, this "Special Basic/Expert Transition Module for Levels 2-4" was one of the last products of TSR UK, whose legacy is still a matter of debate amongst fans on this side of the Atlantic. The module thus combines dungeoneering with wilderness travel and a thin structure in order to provide the PCs with purpose as they adventure throughout the uncharted reaches of the Dymrak Forest of northeastern Karameikos. The module book itself is 56-pages long, contains extensive maps, and 120 die-cut counters for use in adjudicating the siege of a trading outpost by humanoid raiders. Even if its contents hadn't been excellent, Night's Dark Terror is an impressive artifact in its own right.
But, as I stated above, module B10 is indeed excellent, something all the more remarkable given the date of its publication. If one were to examine TSR's output in 1986, there are few standouts among its adventure modules. Between the large number of Dragonlance offerings, the "super-module" compilations, and a large number of licensed properties, such as the Red Sonja modules, one cannot really call 1986 a banner year for the company. More importantly, module design had, by 1986, begun to seriously embrace the principles of the Hickman Revolution, making Night's Dark Terror, with its rambling, (largely) unfocused presentation seem like even more of a throwback than it was.
For the most part, module B10 is a location-based adventure. The characters travel from place to place as they wish, either purely for their own reasons or to follow up on clues and hooks they've encountered earlier. There are times when NPCs or circumstances somewhat heavy-handedly point, "This way to adventure!" -- such as the capture of an NPC's brother by goblins and dogged pursuit by agents of a powerful slaver whose headquarters is nearby -- and these do weaken the module somewhat. However, in its authors' defense, I should point out that they take pains throughout the text to state that "There is no set order in which [fixed encounters] take place," meaning that it is up to the referee to determine how and when to use them rather than sticking to a rigid structure or timeline independent of player decisions.
Night's Dark Terror is a solid Silver Age module, filled with Gygaxian naturalistic details, such as weather and moon phase charts, designed to enhance verisimilitude and facilitate certain encounters (such as the presence of lycanthropes, for example). Indeed, it's filled with details of all sorts, providing the referee with dozens of random and fixed encounters to use as the PCs wander throughout the uncharted wilderness. While far from a true Judges Guild-style hexcrawl, Night's Dark Terror nevertheless provides a mini-sandbox setting that has great utility even after the antagonists and threats that it details have been defeated. There are plenty of unexplained elements, unresolved conflicts, and mysteries in its pages that an enterprising referee could easily use it for many, many sessions without exhausting its possibilities.
It's often said that the "basic" D&D line had a great deal more going for it throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages, when compared to AD&D, at least as far as its modules and supplementary material go. I'm not yet convinced that's true as a blanket statement, but I do believe there are some forgotten gems in the line, Night's Dark Terror being a prime example. It's a pity that the model it puts forth was not more widely embraced and employed by TSR (or the hobby generally), but that's no reason for the old school renaissance not to do so. In fact, I'd love to see a new module written in this style. Something to do after I finish Dwimmermount perhaps?