Storms frequently blow from the Cloudscape Mountains, but never one like this: For weeks it has hung over the peaks, casting its dark shadow across the land. Its huge black clouds billow and writhe in an effort to smother the sun. Once so picturesque and enchanting, the Cloudscape Mountains have taken on a sinister appearance.
Fear now stalks the land. A malignant entity is growing and festering high in the mountain peaks. With dark tendrils, it reaches out towards the lowlands. No one is safe. Caravans are not arriving at the village of Lurneslye. It is only a matter of time before the villagers fall prey to the dark clouds and the evil they conceal.
Powerful adventurers of levels 7 to 9 are urgently sought to banish the darkness. The sun must again shine in a clear blue sky - and soon. Once the dark clouds have fully gathered, who knows what may be unleashed across the land?
UK7: "Dark Clouds Gather" (1985), by Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher, was the seventh and final adventure in the "UK" series. It was published in 1985.
Changing Names & Systems. The Acaeum reports that this adventure's working title working title was "Teki Nura Ria," and that it was originally intended as an Expert D&D adventure. This would have fit with the general trends of TSR UK at the time, as it was otherwise almost entirely focused on Basic D&D from 1984-1986; as is, "Dark Clouds" stands out as an odd exception to their list of publications in the mid-80s.
The UK Feel. Almost all of the TSR UK adventures were plot heavy, and this one is no exception. It opens with extensive backstory describing an ancient war when cloud giants and aarokocra fought against the bestial ba'atun, then moves on to a current plot in which the ancient and evil leader of the ba'atun has been reborn to wreak new havoc on the world. The result is quite Tolkienesque in scope - more so than almost any other adventures at the time, other than perhaps the Dragonlance series (1984-1986).
As with most of the UK series, this one is also far out of the dungeons, with episodic locations scattered across a hex map of the area. Like most of the other UK adventures, this one also makes strong use of Fiend Folio (1981) and Monster Manual 2 (1983) monsters. However, it's most notable for its extensive detailing of the Fiend Folio's aarakocra.
New Monsters: The ba'atun (often called "winged monkeys" by folks who see the cover, and known elsewhere as "snow demons") are generally considered a great new monster. However, they've only gotten attention in fannish publications since their appearance here.
The Final Fate of UK. So why did the UK series end? It certainly wasn't due to sales. Imagine #30 (September 1985), published shortly before the release of "Dark Clouds," claimed that "after the Dragonlance epic, the UK modules are the best-selling series both here and in the USA."
Ultimately, the UK series was probably doomed by TSR's financial problems of the mid-80s and the changing tides at the company - as Gary Gygax left in 1985 and Lorraine Williams took over. There were many changes in the surrounding years, with the upset in the UK offices being just part of that larger turmoil. TSR UK's Imagine magazine died first, after issue #30 (September 1985). Following that, the shutdown of TSR UK's creative division was just a small step.
Before that final hammer fell, TSR UK did publish several additional modules; they just weren't in the UK series. Most of them were Basic D&D adventures, which had never been published under the UK code. However, TSR UK's very last publication, I8: "Ravager of Time" (1986), was an AD&D adventure and thus could easily have been UK8; the fact that it wasn't points toward a probable decision at TSR to use the increasingly popular "novice" (N) and "intermediate" (I) lines, rather than some of the other varied module codes.
A Fun Coda. In some ways, "Dark Clouds Gather" feels like a fun coda for TSR UK's publications. To start with, you have extensive aerial adventuring and combat, a fine contrast to the underwater adventuring of U3: "The Final Enemy" (1983). There is also an assault on a cloud giant castle, which feels like a parallel of the fire giant siege from UK3: "The Gauntlet" (1984). These may be coincidences, but could have a been a reflection of trends and ideas considered at the TSR UK offices.
About the Creators. By this time, Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher had both been working at TSR UK for some time. Bambra had already written UK6: "All that Glitters" (1984), but this was Gallagher's first writing task. They'd both do a fair amount of additional work for TSR in 1986 before moving on to Games Workshop.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.