Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! D is for Descent into the Depths of the Earth

D is for Descent into the Depths of the Earth

Growing up in the 80s it was not uncommon to have multiple, independent groups of people playing D&D.  I have fairly vivid recollections of different groups talking about this adventure or some other book.  But the epic of the time was GDQ series and everyone was playing it.  I'll talk about the Giants series on "G" day and Queen of the Demonweb pits on "Q" day.  But today I want to talk about the "D" series, Descent into the Depths of the Earth and Vault of the Drow.

Once upon a time, back in the days of Walkmen, MTV, and Rubik's Cubes, the Drow were not what we think of them today.  This was the Pre-Drizzt Do'Urden days.

For those that didn't live this at the time the Drow are dark elves, cursed to live underground and worship the demoness Lolth.  Elves were good, and fair and full of light.  Drow...not so much.  The big reveal of the Drow as the main enemies of the GDQ series of adventures is akin to the Classic Star Trek episode "The Balance of Terror" that introduces the Romulans as a big bad. Not just as another race, but an offshoot of the Vulcans.  Evil Vulcans if you will.  The drow were everything the elves are not and they are also the cause of the giants and the kuo-toa raids.

These two (originally three) adventures are the action sequences to the big plot build up, though even the drow are just pawns in a larger threat.

I have such great memories of these adventures. I started playing them, but like so many others I never finished them.  They are the next adventures for my kids and I in our "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.

The one thing I have struggled with though is we live in a post-Drizzt world now.  Drow are no longer the scary dark-elf threat of the unknown.  Today they are potential heroes and a viable race option.

I want to take the drow back to the days where they were a mostly unknown threat.  Also I have proposed a number of other changes to them as well.  Making them more blue in skin tone like the Morlocks of the Time Machine movie.

These days the drow you are most likely to run into are not so much evil, but more emo or goth elves.
I covered some of this a while back in my post "Drow should be Lawful Evil, among other things."  So instead of covering that ground again I will let that stand and move forward.

The nice thing about running these adventures so many years after the fact is there is a wealth of information about them out there.  I have read reviews, play-by-plays and even read the novelization by Paul Kidd.  The book was actually kind of fun and the characters, introduced in the earlier White Plume Mountain, are likable.   I am thinking of introducing Evelyn, the half-pixie ranger as my own homage to the novel.  She would be the daughter of the two main characters Escalla and The Justicar.

One of the best things about these adventures and the G series before and the Q after, is the number of really cool NPCs.  Top of that list has to be Eclavdra, drow priestess.  She has been described as being a priestess to Lolth, an attaché to Grazzt and even a convert to the worship of the Elder Elemental Eye, who in my game is another name for Tharizdûn.   This fits in so nicely with my plans that I feel the need to detail her more.

We know she is a drow and an exceptionally beautiful drow at that. She is introduced in the module G2.  Here is what is said about her there:

Eclavdra (10th level cleric/fighter; H.P.: 60, Wisdom 17, Dexterity 18, Constitution 10, Charisma 18; Armor Class -8 = +3 shield, +5 chainmail, and +4 dexterity bonus), the one who fomented all of the trouble.

The Vault of the Drow (D3) features her on the cover (see above) and describes her as a 10th/4th cleric/fighter.  These are of course AD&D 1 stats.  I am going to use here under D&D 5.   Also, I want to emphasize her "conversion" to Tharizdun more.   I am going to make her a 10th level Cleric/4th level Warlock with a Pact of the Blade and Tharizdûn as her patron.

To prepare I have also been buying up Drow minis.

Really, really looking forward to running these.



Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

Emo elves :) Love it.
Eclavdra sounds like a formidable person (not that I have any idea what the scores actually mean ;)). Hope you have a blast when you run the adventures.
Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

Dr. Theda said...

We had a lot of venturing underground (very Deep below) The Drow were often included in the Adventure. And Loved the "Under-Dark" boxed set, Lots of great "source material" in that one!!

Pun Isaac said...

Sadly all my gaming is post-Drizzt. That being said, the drow in our games tend to be merciless badasses.

The drow of Golarion are interesting. They have no Drizzt equivalent. They're evil demon worshiping elves that have only recently been discovered by surface dwellers. Up until that point they were the elves dirty little secret.

Mystery said...

My D&D character was a cleric, who stayed mostly above ground. I never encountered any Drow, but I love the concept of dark elves in general. That said, I could never really get in to the Drizzt books. Nice theme!

The Immarcescible Word

Cherdo said...

I've never played D&D, but by the sounds of it, I might have become obsessed with it!

Cherdo on the Flipside
"Favorite Characters, Favorite Lines" on the A-to-Z Challenge 2016

Al H. said...

While there are plenty of articles and posts about the Underdark floating around on the web in my home campaign I've been using much of the material from the Dragonsfoot Collaborative Project: Mapping the Depths of the Earth. Warning, this is a very long thread you might just want to skip to the end of the thread or the Encyclopedia Subterranica from this project - which is the 'current' state of the whole project with all the encounter areas that have been completed thus far. I have found this to be of tremendous help and a great time saver in getting the various Underdark locations fleshed out for exploration. I would recommend it highly for anyone running the D series modules or any other Underdark adventure. NB this is mainly a AD&D 1ed project

Arlee Bird said...

I don't know anything about these games, but I've always been fascinated by the concept of worlds in the depths of the Earth. I used to do spelunking when I was a younger man and that could be very interesting if not a bit frightening at times. Still the idea of going even deeper and deeper seems like an amazing adventure even if only in fantasy.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Unknown said...

Sorry it's like you are speaking another language - I guess you are. As unlinked I am to role-playing games I think games (of all types) are a great way to stimulate our minds and imagination.

Im blogging from Fill the cracks and Moondustwriter's Blog. Happy A to Zing!

JB said...

@ Tim:

Other than myself and the guy who gave me the book, you're the only person I know who's read Kidd's novel. I wasn't quite as taken with it...the Justicar might be my least favorite protagonist of all time.

Of course, I haven't read any Drizzit novels.

And it's actually because I have zero knowledge of Forgotten Realms (I mean ANY) that I still think drow are somewhat interesting villains. I had a couple-three players run drow characters back in my old AD&D campaign (not at the same time) after the UA came out, but they were all hardcore evil (like demon-worshipping, child-sacrificing evil). I've never had someone try to pass a drow off as heroic, not even in my 3E days. Not sure I would have allowed it.

Enclavdra and Obmi (from G3) are two of my all-time favorite Gygax villains.

Kala Ravi said...

Very dark characters! Drows look pretty foul to me! An altogether different world this is! Fascinating and foreboding.
@KalaRavi16 from

Nilanjana Bose said...

Great job! Congrats on being on top of your challenge posts.

Best wishes,

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Alfons H.: Thanks for these links! I am sure they will be a huge benefit for my game.

JB: The Paul Kidd novels are not literary masterpieces. They are fluff, but they served their purpose of getting me in the mood for the games. Plus they were fun as a deconstruction of the adventures life as viewed from the outside.

JB said...

@ Tim:

Hey, man, I read the first two and would probably read the 3rd if I could get hold of a copy...don't think I'm being critical of your tastes, I'm just genuinely surprised to find someone who A) has read 'em, and B) enjoyed 'em enough to do any sort of "homage" to the characters. Justicar himself already appears to be an "homage" to every hard-boiled, taciturn ranger I've seen at the gaming table...and I've seen too many.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Oh I know!

It's my way of "citing my research material". ;)

Queen of the Demonweb Pits was also fun, but not as good as the others.
Of course Paul Kidd's books are heads above the others in the series.

Dr. Theda said...

We had forgotten about "Queen of the Demonweb"... have not played much (with the Drow) since the late 80's. We have many "source materials" from those days. Ran a few games for other players from time to time.

bookworm said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I've lived the past almost 30 years in the small village of Johnson City, New York. There was a science fiction bookstore there (well, there still is)called Fat Cat books. They had a number of active D&D groups - every time I went in there to look at their books there were people playing. Thank you for bringing back that memory. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com