Unbalanced Dice Games
Mid level (3-5 seems about right)
Ud is an interesting deviation from UDG’s SOP. Normal ‘UDG’ modules heavily favor dungeon creation in the mode of 70s OD&D; elaborate random tables, fairly simple rooms and single encounters. As time went on, more elaborate orders of battle would start to emerge, however, the focus would always remain on the game as a game FIRST, weird fantasy stuff SECOND. With Ud, this trend is broken.
Ud is a rare foray into RuneQuest/WHF style versimilitude. Many of the conventions of 70s DnD, the elaborate random tables, the intricate rhytm of concealed treasure, traps and encounters is all cast aside in favor of the demented yet internally consistent logic of the fortress of Ud, a devil in the body of a man, who has harnessed all sorts of occult sciences to extract the souls of men and decant them into gold. Served by Pig-men and malicilous dwarves, his lust slaked by Ogre concubines, his fortress is shaped like a giant treasure chest, a manifestation of his boundless greed, and surrounded by enchanted fog, prowled by the zombified detrius of his experiments. As a weird science fantastical aesop about the dangers of greed  it is compelling but in many places gameplay has been sacrificed for versimilitude and unwholesome dabbling in 2e railroading practices, ultimately to the adventure’s detriment.
The adventure starts off in 2e fashion; the characters are contacted by a woman seeking to avenge the death of her family, offering no reward and a few hints about the nature of the opposition. The ‘Smoke Fog’ proper takes the form of a hexcrawl surrounding the fortress, with multiple semi-complicating factors adding a bit of variety to this stretch. Visibility is only 10 ft., combat has a chance of disorienting the players (which the players can learn to bypass if they figure out a path using markers), the fog itself exerts one-time debilitating effects (which an actually be bypassed if the PCs are smart enough to consult the giant beavers about them), there are other visitors drawn by greed and the fog itself is home to many encounters, on a lavish d20 table. This section is quite good, and there is a rich mixture of combat, tricks, baffling mysteries to keep everyone interested.
The fortress proper is where I started noticing the first deviations. The woman who accompanies you dissapears halfway through the fog. Random encounters inside the fortress are just pig men. A whole host of advanced adventure techniques and features are introduced but all the old practices are thrown out. What do I mean by this?
Compare Eructation of the Goblin Troll. In Eructation we have a very standard dungeon, corridors, branching pathways, secret doors, rooms with single encounters but lacking major organization, treasure doled out piecemail and occasionally hidden, key or puzzle hunts and some features like having to keep the hearthfire burning or have the characters trapped in the dungeon. It is good but very traditional. Ud has all sorts of interesting complications and possibilities; it is possible to get captured and one has to escape, machinery in the basement can be disabled so the fog can be ‘turned off’, information can be gathered to circumvent certain obstacles and there’s an alarm system in the beginning that can alert some of the fortress’s defenders. The entire demented cycle of experimentation is represented in various rooms in the dungeon. That’s all good. But treasure division is a mess, (extreme parsimony and then a giant haul barely guarded), the map is boring and there are no secret doors, the rooms tend towards naturalism far more then the fantastical (for UDG that is, there are still some interesting rooms) and there are some prisoners you can rescue but no mechanical drawback, nor reward is attached.
There is something a little frustrating about Ud because you can clearly see the potential here. There are enough hints to figure out the nature of Ud and it is possible to find his body but it is locked in an impregnable sarcophagus and unlike previous UDG adventures, learning the nature of the supernatural threat does not meaningfully impact the adventure, nor allow one to proceed faster.
So what does it do well? The atmosphere is bizarre and striking, like some vaguely italian 70s psychedelic horror film. Pig men and evil dwarves herding people into cells and strapping them to some hideous contraption , a room for the survivors of the soul-draining process, cells where mindless zombies are bathed into pools of chemicals to be turned into mutant zombies (helmets can be used to control and master them), a bar where you are attacked by a female ogre with lipstick and a blond wig trying to stab you with a broken bottle. The actual encounters are pretty subtle and quite good, you blunder into a Pig Man barracks, with two duelling Pig men. The Dwarf watching challenges one of the PCs to test their mettle against the recruit. Then he surreptitously hands the Pig man a poisoned dagger and when the fight is ongoing will fireball the PCs. A betrayal of almost gygaxian intensity! The confrontation with Ud’s human concubine has fighting men step from a mirror to aid her, and Ud himself is in the process of meditating when the PCs come upon him and the entire fight takes place like a murderous dream.
I am curious to learn what came over UDG when he made Ud . The normal flourishes, the cornucopia of bizarre creatures and unique magic items, have been dialled down, in favor of mostly book items and quite a bit of book monsters. The creativity has been lavished on structural elements, or weird features, rather then simple Gygaxian building blocks. The treasure is peak 2017s UDG i.e. stingy with a few good magic items, but a pile of 11.921 soul gold, fainly murmuring pleas to be set free, does make the entire endaevour seem somewhat worthwhile .
Ud is yet another star in the sweeping constellation that is Unbalanced Dice Games, illustrating the full reach of this enigmatic module cobbler. The change and plethora of new techniques render this entry a bit uneven but at the same time there are enough compelling elements to it that I suspect it will fascinate at the table. I suppose adding some sort of alert system to the fortress could have made infiltrating it more tense but as written it feels chaotic in the way that an unholy fortress ruled by a devil and crewed with pig men and evil dwarven magicians probably would feel. A hesitant recommendation.
 And this would not be the first time, Eructation of the Goblin Troll is essentially about fighting the manifestation of Gluttony by way of alcoholism. If we stretch we might be able to find other such elements in No Sun For a Wicked Moon, Broken God’s Pain and the Destruktion Contraption.
 The contraption works btw, there are complete mechanics for extracting gold from a human soul, and the value is very low but enough so it would be attempted, 50 gp + 10 per character level.
 Assuming a party of about 4 characters, the 3k each would be enough to propel the characters on the order of halfway from 3rd to 4th level.