Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

Fourth Edition gets a bad rap from a lot of gamers, especially old-school gamers.  Which is really a pity to be honest.  There is a fun game there. There is even a fun D&D game there.  But alas it is also a game I am not likely to ever play again despite my investment of time and money in on it.

What I did like the most about 4e though were the HPE modules.  These were a series of three adventures for each "tier" of play; H for Heroic (1st to 10th level), P for Paragon (11th to 20th level) and finally E for Epic or 21st to 30th level of play.  Now while most D&D games stick to 20 levels, 4th edition went to 30. Well...1st had an assumed cut off at 20 and D&D BECMI went to 36th and beyond.  But I'll get to that.

The Epic level adventures were truly epics.  The adventure plot was discovering that Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead (and the cover boy on Prince of Death), desires to be a god and he sets out to kill the new Goddess of Death, the Raven Queen.  The E series had you confront Orcus in a reality-spanning quest to stop a mad demon with the powers of an ancient evil artifact.  It was a plot that appealed to me.  The series featured three modules.
Now back in the 1st ed days we battled Orcus back in the Bloodstone Series (H1-4), which I'll also cover on "H" day.  So this was not really all that original.  Indeed even today in the 5e world we have the Rage of Demons adventure series which includes Orcus.   Orcus is a very easy target. He hates everythng, wants everything destroyed and is a rampaging beast.  Which is also the biggest issue I have with these modules.  Orcus is portrayed as a schemer. He isn't. He is a beast. In my own games he is classified as a Rage Demon.  So I thought someone else pulling the strings behind him would make more sense.  Someone clever, someone evil, and someone that will use Orcus getting godhood just as a mask to his own plans.  So now I think you can see how my "Come Endless Darkness" was born.

Over the last couple of years I have come up with some fairly rough algorithms for 4e conversion.  So here are my current thoughts.

Plan 1.  Use bits of this plus bits of H4 Throne of Bloodstone to fold into my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  This is the most likely really.

Though I would still LOVE to use ALL these adventures someday.  Play all nine, ten or eleven if you count the ones that came with the 4th ed basic set and Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens.   I doubt I will ever run it under 4e, but stranger things have happened.
But I could convert it.

Plan 2. Convert for use for another game. There is some good stuff here really and I would still love to play all of them out.  Conversion could solve my issues, but how do I convert it?

Well if I am playing 2nd, 3rd or 5th ed then levels are about to 2 to 3.  So if the adventure says it is for 6th level then I take 4th level characters through and replace the monsters appropriately.

If I am playing B/X/C or BEMCI (aka "Basic") version of D&D or AD&D 1 then I add 5 levels to the characters.  B/X/C and BEMCI assumes that the characters, well, human characters, will advance to 36th level.  And your average 1st level 4e character is still more powerful than your average 4th-5th level character.

I am more likely to try it under Basic; going from 1st to 36th level.  I am not really sure how well it would work to be honest.  But I will also admit this is my conversion of choice.  It allows me to use all the cool OSR toys I have and use a system am very familiar with.  I would adopt some of the 4e trappings like conditions, especially "bloodied" and ideas like minions.
I have already converted 1st and Basic-era luminaries as Emirikol the ChaoticAleena and Morgan Ironwolf to 4e, so going backwards is not that difficult.

There are a couple of conversion guides out there too. WotC has one as does Sly Flourish.  But none that I have found so far back-converting.

If you are new to this and want to learn how to play 4th Edition D&D and see the first part of the HPE saga you can get H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules for 4e for free.

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.

Not so much these guys

but more like this
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.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Fellow A to Zers

I have a lot of blogs in my normal reading lists that are participating in the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.  If you are a regular reader then these blogs are likely familiar to you too.   If you are here from the A to Z Challenge, then please check out these blogs as well.


The World of Stelios

Nemo's Lounge

Sea of Stars RPG

Monstrous Matters

Halls of the Nephilim BTW if you are new here or to any of these blogs, Justin does a good job explaining what D&D 5th Edition stuff is about. Plenty of links to free stuff so you can play too.

B/X Blackrazor

Lloyd of Gamebooks

DMing With Charisma

Sphere of Annihilation

The Iron Pact

Fuzzy's Dicecapades

Graphs, Paper, and Games

Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool, though Cal is doing things his own way!

Dr. Theda's Crypt

Check out all the blogs participating below!

A to Z of Adventure! C is for Competition Modules

C is for Competition Modules.

The C series of modules were mostly unrelated in terms of story.  Unlike the D that I'll talk about tomorrow or the G later on, there was no over arching story to connect these.

What did connect them was this idea of "Competition" or official RPGA scoring included in each one.  Back in the day (say late 1970s) D&D was being played by thousands of people. It had yet to capture the market like it will in the 1980s, but there were still enough players then that variations were creeping into the rules.  Some people had Greyhawk, others used house rules and the burgeoning 3rd party market was making inroads.  The bottom line was that D&D was not always played the same from group to group.  I even remember this back in the day when I played.  This was part of the reason why Advanced D&D was created and so many more rules were added.

Competition play in the form of the A and C series were a logical outgrowth of that.

I have always enjoyed the C adventures, but never played them.

C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
This adventure is a call back to the popular "Ancient Temple" style adventures, but it also had some interesting psuedo-Mayan and Aztec elements to it that really gave it a different feel.  It was ranked #18 in the 30 Best D&D Adventures of all time by Dungeon Magazine.
For me I have always wanted to run this adventure as part a longer campaign using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  There is such a pulpy, almost "Raiders of the Lost Ark" feel to this adventure.  You can also read +Eric Fabiaschi's comments on it here.
I have to say this is one adventure I am most looking forward to running.

C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this one.  I never ran it or played under AD&D, but I have had a copy for years.
According to the official records the "Inverness" was likely the town in Alabama rather than Scotland.  Growing up in Southern Illinois we always thought that is meant Inverness, Illinois.  We knew that Gary had grown up in Chicago and Lake Geneva was much closer to Inverness than we were.  Well as fate would have it I moved to Palatine, IL which is just next door to Inverness.  I can see it from where I am typing this now.  We have a "lighthouse" here, or rather a water tower painted like a lighthouse right on the border with Inverness.   So I ran a Doctor Who game once using this module and called it "The Ghost Tower of Inverness, IL."
I recently ran this one and have detailed here: Weekend Gaming: Ghost Tower of Inverness

C3 The Lost Island of Castanamir
This is an odd one of the bunch. I have never read, nor do I own it.  It is also for levels 1-4 as opposed to the 4 or 5 to 7 of all the other adventures.

C4 To Find a King and C5 The Bane of Llewellyn
These two modules are linked.  I never played these versions, but my DM was able to get ahold the RPGA versions that were played at Gen Con in 1983, so we were going to go through those, but other things came up.  I never bought them and I don't think I have ever read them either.

Not sure if I'll ever run those last three, but I should pick them up sometime.

C6 The Official RPGA Tournament Handbook is not really an adventure, but a handbook scoring.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Zatannurday: DeviantArt Favorites

Still have a few DaviantArt favorites to share.
I'll keep doing these till I run out.

Zatanna Zatara - 03 by galaktikmermaid on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara - 02 by galaktikmermaid on DeviantArt

Zatanna by PGandara on DeviantArt

Nature Always Wins by Mr-G-Modder on DeviantArt

Zatanna and Hawkgirl 2 by Lily-pily on DeviantArt

Zatanna by Mark-Clark-II on DeviantArt

Zatanna: DEHCTIWEB by quin-ones on DeviantArt

Zatanna Phonebooth AZ Powergirl Cara Nicole by AzPowergirl on DeviantArt

Death Battle Idea: Zatanna vs Hermione Granger by ItemShoplifter on DeviantArt

A to Z of Adventure! B is for Basic Adventures

B is for Basic Adventures.

The Dungeons and Dragons Basic set is a tried and true introduction to the D&D game.  Since the first Basic set, written by John Eric Holmes, was published there have been included adventures.  
The first was the aptly named, In Search of the Unknown, and had the code B1.  This was and still is my go to adventure for starting out a new campaign of first level characters.  The plot, as much as there can be one, is thin. There is a castle that has been abandoned. Let's go check it out!

The next Basic Set, and really the start of the whole Basic line of D&D was the one from Tom Moldvay.  This set introduced us all to the Caves of Chaos and the titular Keep on the Borderlands.  There are estimates that close to 1.5 Million copies of B2 Keep on the Borderlands were printed.  An entire generation of gamers visited those caves in search of glory, gold and experience points.

The B-series of modules would go one to produce some of the best and most memorable adventures ever printed.   There was the controversial first print (orange cover) of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess which had all copies destroyed and now fetches top dollar on eBay.  This was followed by the sublimely weird B4 The Lost City, which along with B2 made the list of the top 30 D&D adventures of all time.

I ran all these first four for my kids over the last few years and it was a blast.  I never played in or ran the remaining 8 (yes 8!) adventures.  But all are designed for starting level characters, levels 1 to 3 and most importantly starting Dungeon Masters learning their new craft.  I know own them all, and really want to play them sometime.  I am planning on running Rahasia (B7) as part of my "War of the Witch Queens" campaign someday.  I'd also like to run B5 Horror on the Hill and B8 Journey to the Rock as well.


The adventures at the Dungeon Masters' Guild:

Friday, April 1, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! A is for Against the Slave Lords

A is for Against the Slave Lords

Welcome to the A to Z Blogging Challenge for 2016!

Let's start this off with one of the earlier adventure series and consequently one I am currently wrapping up for my kids.

The Slave Lords series was marketed under the "A" module code. The series included four adventures, A1 to A4.
Back in 2013 Wizards of the Coast published a new A5 The Last Slave Lord in Dungeon Magazine #215. In 2015 a new hardcover of the adventure came out which included an introductory adventure A0.

The "A" series came from the adventure "Assult on the Aerie of the Slave Lords".  Though for me I always thought they were "A" since they were for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, even though other adventures came before it.  Of course my DM also was confused why it was called "A" so he did what he usually did, he added a bunch of Assassins to it.

These adventures were used as tournament level play at the AD&D Open Tournament for Gen Con XIII (1980).   The adventures were then published in 1980/1981.  I played it myself around 81 or 82.

Ask 10 gamers and you are likely to get 10 different opinions on these adventures.  I remember having a character die in it a trap in one of the various traps found in these.

So far my kids are doing well, but it has by no means been a cake walk for them.  We are down to the last adventure in the series.  I have to figure out if I want them to go through the first part without all their gear or not.   I get why it is there, but it isn't something I *need* to do with them right now.

Here are some other postings on this module. Always interesting to read what others have experienced.

And Peter's detail into each adventure.

The A series was also made part of the D&D 5 playtests, so it was possible to grab all the conversion needed.  So far playing this with D&D 5 in 2016 is just as fun as playing it with AD&D 1 in 1982.

Buy it at DriveThruRPG, A0-A4: Against the Slave Lords (1e).
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