Terror in the Dark is the first and only official expansion set for Advanced Heroquest, Games Workshop’s early, gritty dungeon crawler game.
The set consisted of new cardboard components plus a rulebook, containing additional rules and a brand new campaign: The Quest for the Lichemaster.
First let’s examine the new components. These included:
• 1 each of: Trapdoor, Grate, Chasm, Bridge (moderately useful since only 1 of each was in the original game set)
• 1 Tomb/Coffin (a new item: useful, but most scenarios that use them require more than 1)
• 4 each of: Mushrooms, Mould, Rats, Bats (useful since these weren’t in the original game set)
• 1 Statue (same comment as above)
• 2 Treasure Chests (rarely used)
• 8 Portcullises, 12 Pits (rarely used; I feel other stuff – e.g. stairs – would have been more useful)
• 13 passage corners, 10 passage sections, 3 dead ends, 3 T-junctions (useful)
Sadly, there were no new doors, and no new stairs - the original game contained only 6 doors and 2 stairs, usually not nearly enough.
I don’t know if this was the case for all sets, but the passage sections in my copy of Terror in the Dark are lighter than those in the original game set, and don’t fit well together.
In addition, there are four cards describing the Quest objects of The Lichemaster campaign (a nice touch), and what I consider the highlight of the set: five new Quest Rooms, each of which is well-illustrated and quite inspiring. All are used in The Lichemaster.
The Quest Rooms can be described as:
1. The tomb of a Chaos Champion
2. A wizard’s study
3. A treasure chamber / dragon’s lair
4. A fiery cavern
5. A huge cave and throne room, perfect for an evil overlord
In short, the new rules include:
• new treasure
• new monsters, plus new abilities and spells for them
• new ways to generate rooms, treasure, and monsters
• rules to generate random plots and quests
• rules for special Quest Rooms
• new Henchmen
• rules for Light Wizards
To elaborate, one can immediately see that GW also thought the new Quest Rooms were going to be a major selling point, since the very first thing in the new rulebook are additional rules for using the new Quest Rooms in your regular campaigns.
The second item is a whole new college of magic: the Light College. Light Wizards are markedly different than the Bright Wizards in the core rulebook, and function more like healers or priests in typical RPGs, having spells that focus on healing, protection, and destroying undead and daemons.
I’ve found that most players prefer Bright Wizards since the Light Wizard lacks the power to wipe out large groups of weak enemies with one spell (Flames of Death, Conflagration of Doom), which no other Hero can do.
On the other hand, the Light Wizard does have Sleep of the Ages, which is almost guaranteed to dispose of a solitary monster, no matter how powerful it is. Another weakness of the Light Wizard is that all his spells require a different component, unlike the Bright Wizard, where all of them are used for at least two different spells.
The next article covers the new monsters. Firstly, it expands the Undead monster set so that it becomes almost as diverse as the Skaven in the core rulebook. The new Undead include Ghouls, Wights, Liches, and Vampires. There are also two new special rules (Strength Drain, Hypnotize) and two new spells (Strengthen Undead, Flesh Flaying) for these monsters. As you can see, these new monsters are quite formidable!
A new “faction” of monsters is also introduced: the Beastmen. They have only the basic warrior, champion, warlord, and sentry, but are very tough opponents nonetheless. You can mix them with Minotaurs and perhaps use the Chaos Sorcerer as a Beastman Shaman if you want more diversity.
Presumably, later expansions would have expanded the range of monsters available to one of the races in the rulebook (notably Orcs and Goblins, and Chaos mortals) and added new ones (Dark Elves are noticeably absent from AHQ). Sadly, this never happened.
The next article presents a set of six monster matrices for use in the Lichemaster Campaign or randomly-generated scenarios. These are quite useful, but unfortunately, the game doesn’t give any instructions for scaling up difficulty to be more challenging to more experienced Heroes.
Next up are the rules for what all Heroes seek for one reason or another: treasure! First are rules for randomizing the treasure carried by each monster, and rules to give some of the monsters the chance to carry a minor magic item.
What follows is an expanded chart for Treasure Chests, which I highly recommend using.
New treasure types are introduced next, including Jewels and Blade Venoms. After them are the magic treasures, which include some truly interesting items such as the Rat Bag (allows you to snag a Skaven, taking it out of the fight instantly) or the Cloak of Pockets (allows you to carry more stuff, can even produce spell components, etc.).
Some items are extremely powerful (e.g. Enchanted Mithril Armour, Cloak of Invulnerability), and the GM should exercise caution when deciding whether they should be allowed. There’s also what I believe is the first instance of a cursed item in AHQ.
The next chapter is dedicated to Henchmen. There are some minor changes to the way Men-at-Arms and Sergeants work, the most notable being that Men-at-Arms get Halberds instead of Swords, making them much more useful, since they are now much better at blocking monsters access to your vulnerable wizard, and can gang up on monsters more effectively. Also, Sergeants can now be acquired only after the Hero has gained at least 1 Fate Point.
A more important change, however, is the introduction of Advanced Henchmen. A Hero can have only one of these, and they are tied to his race and class. They include the Captain (for Human Warriors), Trollslayer (for any Dwarf), Wardancer (for any Elf), and Wizard’s Apprentice (for any Wizard). Note that Elf and Dwarf Wizards can choose between the Apprentice and Wardancer/Trollslayer, respectively.
These new Henchmen have special abilities – the Trollslayer can go Berserk, the Wardancer has several special attacks (all very useful), the Apprentice can cast spells, while the Captain is just tough. All of them also have restrictions or a special upkeep cost.
These new Henchmen are all very fun to use, but they do have two drawbacks. The first is that some have abilities that the Heroes do not; in particular, the Wardancer can end up overshadowing the Elf Hero.
The second is that they aren’t well balanced – the Wardancer is ridiculously good and has an attack that’s similar to the Trollslayer’s Berserk, but with less drawbacks. The Apprentice starts pathetically weak, but has the potential to become very powerful. The Captain, unfortunately, has no real special rules and is effectively just a slightly-stronger Sergeant. In addition, he becomes available once the Hero gets 3 Fate Points through quests, unlike the others, who only need 2.
Next up is a new dungeon generation table, which makes it impossible to find Quest Rooms too early, but also makes them more common as the Heroes explore more rooms. I strongly recommend using this, since waiting for rolling a “12” could take ages with the original rules.
This is followed by a set of rules for generating random plots and quests. While some of these ideas are quite interesting, I only really used it once or twice, since I generally preferred to play the official campaigns, or the scenarios published in White Dwarf.
Finally, I’d like to mention that Terror in the Dark contains some errata for the core rulebook (e.g. that Orcs have Toughness 7, that Skaven Warlords wear Chainmail, etc.).
The Lichemaster campaign
The last part of the book (around 40% of it, actually) is dedicated to the mentioned Lichemaster campaign.
The campaign contains 5 separate dungeons, each containing 2 levels (though the last dungeon is slightly different).
Each of the Dungeons uses a different monster matrix to generate the occupants of the upper level. These are, in order of appearance: Orcs and Goblins, Chaos (humans), Skaven, Mixed, and Undead. This is, in my opinion, more interesting than the Quest for the Shattered Amulet, since the opponents are more varied, and there’s less time spent searching for Quest Rooms.
The only weakness is that the Character Monsters aren’t as developed as in the Shattered Amulet, which was iconic for its reoccurring major opponents (especially that sneaky Assassin!).
I won’t go into details here, but I have to say that the campaign is pretty atmospheric and interesting to play, but very unforgiving to the Heroes, especially when they’re just starting out. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginner players.
What makes it stand out from others is that it has a dynamic narrative between the dungeon-bashing, and this actually has some effect on the Heroes. As the Lichemaster’s forces grow in strength, services will become less available.
There's some good use of special encounters and alternative uses for the common dungeon hazards (e.g. Chasms, Pits, Chests), which also make the campaign more memorable.
One odd thing I’d like to mention that the rules for Orc Sentries is found in the campaign rather than with the other new monsters.
All in all, I strongly recommend anyone playing AHQ to get Terror in the Dark, especially the rulebook, since it makes an already great game more colourful and playable. I personally always use all of the new rules except the random treasure for the monsters, and I find the Lichemaster campaign more enjoyable than the Shattered Amulet. The new Quest Rooms are also nice to look at and add more variety to the game.