Friday, June 12, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: X6 Quagmire (BECMI)

Not just a review today, but I want to spend some time today with an adventure that fueled my imaginations...or at least I thought it did.  I also want to talk about what my plans are for it now.

So come with me to Quagmire. Its a journey of half-remembered ideas, Lizardmen characters, Dragonborn, and special guest appearances by Ulslime and Mary Pickford.

Somewhere back in Jr. High or High School before I ever saw this adventure I had watched a movie. Likely on a local channel or maybe an old tape or laserdisc (my dad loved laserdisc!).  The move was Sparrows (1926) and it starred Mary Pickford.  To me the movie was a horror film. 

Pickford played Molly and she was the protector of a bunch of orphans being exploited by this old man named Grimes.   Ah, Grimes, you evil bastard.

Not since the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had I seen a character eviler in his disregard of children (my mom ran a Day Care, in my mind the evilest thing was to hate or harm a child).  He left a lasting impression to be sure.

In my mind, the dichotomous battle was set. Old, evil, Grimes versus the young, pure Molly.  And so help me if I didn't like Grimes better.  I really wanted the kids to rise up and just beat the living shit out that guy and his wife.  But they never did, worse, Molly keeps looking up to the sky like she is getting some private communique. Like that is going to help.

I think about this movie fairly often, to be honest.  Many things I wrote after I watched it will bubble back up in things I write today.  I still used swamps as my ultimate hideout of evil (but that could also be in part to the Legion of Doom).

Quagmire: Retrospective

Around 1984-85 I was at my Favorite Local Game Store, which then was Waldenbooks in nearby Springfield, IL.  I was looking over the new adventures they had there.  One was CM2 Death's Ride, which is getting a full review next week, the other was X6 Quagmire.  I read the back of the module and it sounded interesting. It dealt with a city, dangerous swamp and monsters.  All great stuff. But I bought CM2 death's Ride instead. I also gathered from reading White Dwarf #70 that the reviewer liked Quagmire, so it had to be pretty good.

Somewhere along the line I also learned there was a sinking tower (really a city, but it looked like a tower) and lizard men (seemed natural).  So I added it to my own version of the Known World.   A sinking tower, in a swamp called Quagmire.  I took the evil cleric Ulslime and made him into a Death Master (from Len Lakofka) and made him master of the tower.  He looked and acted an awful lot like Grimes from Sparrows.  I must have seen at least more of the insides of the adventure because "Ulslime" became "Magnus Ulslime." I combined two characters, one from CM2 and one from X6.

For decades THAT was my Quagmire.  It fit the cover art, it tied it in with CM2 Death's Ride and a bunch of other things going on in my Known World at the time.  It worked.

Imagine my surprise when I finally got the POD version of Quagmire from DriveThruRPG.

The actual module is...well...different than my ideas of what it was.  That is neither good nor bad, but it does color how I choose to use it.

Quagmire: Review
Quagmire is a 32-page adventure module written by Merle M. Rasmussen, of Top Secret fame, for the Expert Set.  Character levels 4-10.  Color covers and some maps, black & white interiors. Art by Steve Peregrine (cover) and Jeffrey Butler (interior).
For this review, I am considering the PDF and POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

Quagmire focuses on a city that used to be by the seashore but is now sinking into the sea.  The city is actually a large spiral tower that looks like a whelk shell.  The city leaders are moving the entire populace from their city to a nearby, identical one.  The PCs have been hired to clear out the wilderness area of lizardmen and goblins and help them get to the new city.

The module expands the Known World to now include the Serpent Penisula, which is just west of the Isle of Dread.   If the Isle of Dread is Jamaica or the Bahamas then the Serpent Penisula is Florida and Cuba.  All I need to do is add a "Bermuda Triangle."

This expansion of the Known World detail is the best part of the adventure.  This area would later be expanded on in future products and The Voyage of the Princess Ark feature in Dragon magazine.
Additionally, the city design itself is very interesting. Something very appealing about it to be honest and a giant tower as a city is the sort of thing I love to see in my games.

The adventure itself sadly a little lack-luster. The ending is a little anti-climatic and the wilderness encounters seem to be strung together to provide the characters something to do.
There are a lot of great parts to this adventure and there is plenty of potential, I am not sure the adventure itself lives up to all of that.  Still, the parts are good and there is no end of ideas for other swamp-based adventures or even the spiral cities.

The adventure, like all adventures of this time period, features new monsters and some new magic items.  There are also some pre-rolled characters.

The POD (Print on Demand) version is very clean and easy to read. There is some of the "fuzziness" I associate with a POD of a scanned product, but much less than some of the others I have purchased.  In fact, this might be one of the better scans I have seen.  At the time of this review, the POD is only $4.99 for both the POD and the PDF.  That is a fantastic price really.

So while the adventure is a little lacking, the material that comes with it is great and the PDF/POD is great.

Quagmire: Refit
So Quagmire the actual module and Quagmire how I *used* it are fairly different.  That's fine really, but what can I do with it now?

Well, one thing I have been wanting to do is add Dragonborn somewhere to Mystara/The Known World.  I have not given it a ton of thought, so I posted out to some Mystara groups on social media.
Now, of course, I got the one expected response, "Dragonborn don't belong in Mystara!"
Well. They do in mine.
The next responses seemed to be evenly split between Davina and the Serpent Peninsula. Both ideas have their merits.  I was all set on doing Davina. It's far enough away to be remote, but still close enough to be accessible.  But I was thinking about my kids' current game in Mystara, the Second Campaign, they just left the Isle of Dread and are headed south. It has taken them a long time to get this far; Davina might be too far still.

It also appears that the Serpent Penisula also has a lot of Lizardmen.  This is great for two reasons.
1. Lizardmen are the ancient enemies of the Dragonborn in my games.  Their relationship is like that of orcs and humans.
2. Anyone who tells me that Dragonborn doesn't belong as a PC race in D&D I remind them that Lizardmen were once accepted as a playable race in Holmes basic.  Maybe not explicitly, but certainly in practice.  Even Gygax himself said that this was fine when comparing D&D to AD&D.

So. If Lizardmen can be there, so can Dragonborn.
Dragonborn look different, but they are not really all that different from dwarves in combat.  They have a limited breath weapon that would do 1d6 for a while or save for half.  I'll play around with it.

I could still make them from Davina, but have an outpost or a colony on the Serpent Penisula.
I would change the people of Quagmire to Dragonborn.  That would be an interesting twist really, especially if the PCs get a letter asking for help and they expect humans or elves.  I might also swap out the mermen for Kopru, just so I can give those crazy fish people some more action.

Yeah.  This sounds great, to be honest.  BUT the events of the adventure were retconned to have taken place over 500 years ago.  Ok.  That still works.  The Dragonborn are in their new city of Thanopolis/Tanakumba, the Kopru are in the underwater city, and Quagmire?  Ah.  The city never sank all the way and now my necromancer/Death Master Magnus Ulslime is the master of that city and it is full of undead and surrounded by mud-men and mongrel-men, the victims of his magical experiments.  And maybe even an army of children digging in the nearby flooded mines to recover ancient Dragonborn treasures.  Just so I can work Grimes into the mix as well.  Maybe a name change to Magnus Ulgrimes should be in order. I never liked the Ulslime name, but I had used it too long to drop it back then.

It looks like I managed to get everything I wanted into a neat package! Sweet, and tomorrow is my birthday!


paleologos said...

Nice retrospective and review - I reviewed X6 on Dragonsfoot, ages ago:

and ran it recently in conjunction with I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City

I'd come up with a reason for the sinking of the peninsula (a wormhole, in the center of the Shallow Sea) and an adventure for the PCs to close the extradimensional portal. The module has a lot of potential.

Darkwintre said...

I was thinking about making the city the oldest human made dwelling and link it to how humanity first arrived on Exandria (well my version and set a century before Vox Machina firat appears.
The city is beseiged by an army intent on securing one of the heirs to the kingdom last seen flown here for his own safety.
My plan for the Lizardfolk was to reveal the event thats slowly dragging the city underwater is effecting them too and they think the city is responsible despite their obvious peril!