Showing posts sorted by relevance for query ophidians. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query ophidians. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 4

Episode 4: Identity Crisis

Willow: So you are saying that whole season of ‘Facts of Life’ was nothing more than unrequited lesbian love between Blair and Jo?
Tara: Absolutely, they were totally into each other, that’s why they fought so much.
Willow: Now you’re just playing with my emotions.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 4 “Identity Crisis”

January 8, 2003 Sunday

Willow’s first big dive back into magic is to recreate Tara’s identity and remove all references of her death. A magical surge created by Yoln, the Shadowreaper, causes the magic to go awry and creates a duplicate of Tara who believes she is Kara, Tara’s twin sister. A magic ID provided by Anya also goes awry and the personality of a dead stripper is imprinted on Tara. In addition, the cast have to deal with hungry snake demons, a small gang of mobsters and a 7ft tall, one handed killing machine.
Story Arc elements: Establishes Tara’s “twin” sister Kara and Murl the demonic identity merchant. Introduces Yoln.

Notes and Comments:This is the adventure that made me forget that the show was even still on TV. Once we got to this episode things were moving great. The ideas flowed much faster. This was also our most comical episode despite the fact that it began with a dead stripper. We have "two" Taras running around, demonic identity merchants, would be gangsters, and a 7 foot tall man in armor with one arm. Plus there is the whole Tara-as-a-stripper scene.

The identity merchant was a great idea.  These are demons that make a living integrating other demons into human society.  They do it by having the demon assume the identity of someone that had died and they get all their effects, basically becoming that person.   Anya gets the id of a recently killed japanese stripper.  We also wanted to do one "Willow's magic screws up" episode and ehen never do it again.  She is supposed to be the most powerful witch on the planet afterall.  In truth her magic didn't screw up it was the combination of her magic, the dead stripper's id and the magic of Yoln.

Special note: Because of this episode Tara can still speak fluent Japanese, Amber Benson made a remark at a con a while back along the lines of "well I guess I can speak Japanese" when talking about the afterlife of fan fic. Wish I could find the link for you all.

Yoln of course is the proxy for our big bad.  We find out more about him next episode, but we learn he is the "Hand of Leviathan" whom he calls "The Whispering God".  Yoln was also an old D&D NPC that plagued my characters.

Kara, Tara's "straight" sister was an inside joke that began on the Kitten describing the soap oprea like plotting we were seeing in the show up to Season 6. We decided in the alternate past that Kara had a hugh crush on Giles. The ophidians were an old AD&D monster of mine.

The author of this adventure, Sass, has a better grasp on Willow than anyother author I have ever met. She gets her on such a fundamental level that her fiction should be required reading for anyone wanting to play Willow in a game.

Kara was not just a proxy for dead Tara, but Dawn as well. We established that she was as real to everyone, including memories, as Dawn, and a spell took her away. This was part of the alienation plot for Buffy and Dawn. Both were feeling like they were less and less human than the people around them, though for different reasons. I disliked the Slayer-as-demon (the episode where the girl was raped by a demon to make her a Slayer had not happened yet) and wanted to go a different direction, so we began by having Buffy become stronger and faster than before, becoming something other than human, or so she thought. For Dawn it was the start of her psychic powers.  I wanted both characters (via the players) to struggle with what it means to be human, or maybe no longer human.

And true to our cause here  "Candy", the dead stripper, gets avenged in the end and her killers are met with justice at the hands of the Yakuza.  Tara also gets a marker from the Yakuza boss.  The boss was named Tatsou which means "Dragon".  There is no connection, just a pun on my part to keep some element of the overall plot in every episode.

The quote above is an in-play quote between Willow and Tara.  All this terrible stuff is going around them and they are having a discussion about the lesbian sub-text of the Facts of Life.

In this episode we also established that Willow & Tara's favorite indie band is Lipkandy. They were playing the night after Tara's birthday.

At this point we began to insert a lot more crunchy stuff to our games.  Previously we had been content to use the playtest material of Buffy, but now we were moving along at good pace.  Episodes 4 and 5 were our playtests of the new Magic Box book, but we wanted to add more.

New Monster

Motivation: Eat humans
Critter Type: Demon
Attributes: Str 7 Dex 6 Con 6 Int 2 Per 2 Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 20 Combat 14 Brains 15
Life Points: 70
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Armor Value 10 (scales) Qualities: Hard to Kill 3
Dodge: 14
Claw: 16 18 dam Str x 3
Bite: 15 21 dam (Str + 1) x3,
Tail slap: 15 14 dam

Ophidians are said to be a young race by demon standards, thought to exist only for the last 3 or 4 thousand years, since early Egyptian times. They are an isolationistic race, known to spend time only with their own kind, and have little regard for other demons. While most demons are decidedly carnivorous, the Ophidians are one of a few whose diet is thought to consist solely of the flesh of human beings. It is known that almost all Ophidians worship some sort of a serpent deity, but whether this is Set or Leviathan is unclear.
These Ophidians worship leviathan, but it can’t be a coincidence that many also worship Set and the cast just dealt with Set.

New Spells

Magic Missile
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 2
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only shout “dissolvo.” Other magicians also need to meditate for one minute.
Effect: A ball of light shoots from the caster’s hand and shoves the target one foot per Success Level rolled. This spell could knock someone down or push them free from someone who was holding them. It normally does no damage, but if the target is shoved into a wall or some other hard surface, she takes double the casting roll’s Success Levels in Bash damage.
Note: This is the spell Tara used in “Bargaining”. It is assumed that Kara has it as well.

Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 1
Requirements: Command word calling on the gods of sleep (Hypnos, Morpheus, or ‘the Sandman’) and a bit of sand.
Effect: Target must make a Will check. If failed the target falls into a deep sleep for one hour per level of sorcery skill.
Note: This spell is know to both Tara and Kara.

Undo Spell
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only to command that the spell be ended. Others need to concentrate on the spell for 1 minute per power level of the original spell. If the caster does not have the sorcery levels required she can bring in other casters.
Effect: Undoes one spell or magical effect.
Since the magical effect in not natural, the magic is easy. But the witch needs to be able to overcome the level of the original spell as a resisted check.

Next Week:  Tara and Willow are targeted by assassins and they learn more of their mission here.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.

Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.

Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Come Endless Darkness

No. Not the Gary Gygax book, but related.

I have been thinking a lot about the 1st Ed AD&D game my kids are in now.   They love play 1st ed more than 3e I feel, but what is missing from this game, at least how I initially conceived it, is an epic arc.

In this campaign the characters are going to get involved in something huge, something world changing.  Since these characters are the sons and daughters of their 3e characters I also want some thing that alters the feel of the game world to help explain the shift in rules from 3e to 1st Ed.

So I am going back to an idea I had years ago that I originally wanted to try for 3e.  It was going to be called Shadow Earth and bits and pieces live on in my other products and posts.
I am planning to blot out the sun.
This was something that I toyed with now and again and thought it might make for a good plot. It was also one of the ideas I threw out later on as an idea for my "no big bad" game Season of the Witch.

The idea is a simple one really.  The vampires, drow and mind flayers* (or maybe the mi-go have not decided yet) join forces to blot out the sun.

The PCs discover part of this plot after they bust up a slaving operation being run by vampires (A series).  Unlike like other games though, the bad guys succeed in their plans and the sun goes dark.  While the big powers of the world are meeting to discover how to reverse it (and thus not able to help out their offspring) the new generation is sent off to investigate reports of giants attacking a village nearby (GDQ).

So yes I am using modules with this.  I figure I have come up with say about 100 unique adventures over the last 35 years or so.  These allow me to ease some of the heavy lifting AND also to give my kids a shared experience with other gamers.
Here is the plan so far.
  • B1 In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3 (played at Gen Con 2012)
  • B2 Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3 (playing now, will include a shrine to an evil god of chaos)
  • T1 Village of Hommlet, Intro-levels (might not use now, depends on how the Temple of EE fits in)
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4 (maybe)
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (the MiGo plot)
  • A0 to A4, levels 4-7 (the vampires get their victims from the Slavers)
  • A5, The Last Slave Lord, levels 5-9 
  • I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7  (snakemen - minions)
  • C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, levels 5-7
  • G123, levels 8-12 (drow)
  • D12, levels 9-14
  • D3, levels 10-14
  • Q1, levels 10-14
They are currently going through Tomb of Horrors under 3e, and I am thinking of running Expedition to the Barrier Peaks under AS&SH.

The idea then will be that the PCs discover the plot and have to destroy the device blocking out the sun on Lolth's plane.  IF things work out and we have more time or they want to go on then I *might* work in the old H4 Module, Throne of Bloodstone and redo it a bit to give them a second part to destroy.

Things I have not yet figured out.  I would love to use my Ophidians in there somewhere.  I should really since they a cool race and work well.  I will have to use my take on Demogorgon then as well.

Mindflayers seem like a no brainer to me which means I should really investigate why I am using them.  I think they should be part of a more Mythos-like mindset.  Their goal of course is to enslave the entire world.  But do they have a demon lord they answer to? Not likely.  Given this many factions I need to figure out their motivations.  Why? Well that will tell me how the players will be able to succeed.
Maybe the Ophidians are in league with or controlled by the mind flayers.

I want to give them an epic. I want this to feel like opera; like all three parts of Wagner's Ring Cycle.
At the end I want to be able to look over the table at their faces and know they know what it is to shake the pillars of Heaven.  I felt that when the I was done playing in the "Dragon Wars" in 1988 and again when I ran "The Dragon and the Phoenix" in 2002-2004.

Regardless how epic it might be, it will be fun.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time

Been kinda of obsessed with lists lately.  But this one does have a point for me.  A while back (2004 in fact) the Pazio run of Dungeon Magazine listed their top 30 adventures of all time.

I have been going through what I call the "Classical Canon" of D&D.  Not just so I have the experience of running them all, but so my kids can also enjoy these great adventures.  I also am looking for what makes a truly great D&D adventure; something that people still talk about years later.

Anyway here is the list with my thoughts.

30. The Ghost Tower of Inverness, 1980 (C2)
This is great one, but an odd one to run with a party in an ongoing campaign.  So I used it in my Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space playtest and ran it as "The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois".  I used this as the location of the "Ghost Tower" which is actually a malfunctioning Time Beacon.

29. The Assassin’s Knot, 1983 (L2)
Personally I prefer L1, Secret of Bone Hill, but this is a great sequel and I can see why many people like it more than Bone Hill.  Assassin's Knot works well as a murder mystery, but not great if your players are wanting to go in a bust skulls.

28. The Lost City, 1982 (B4)
I played this one in 8th Grade when it was new and had a blast.  I ran it again for my kids a few years back and still had a blast.  There were so many things in it I had forgotten and I spent most of the module smiling to myself in memory.  It is a Moldvay classic really and really has the feel of early 80s Basic D&D.

27. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, 1981 (U1)
This was one I played back in the day but I have yet to run.  I have it all ready to go with my 3rd Ed. conversion notes.  Of course at the time I thought this was great because I was deep into my Anglophilia and I thought ANYTHING from England was perfect. Given that it was written (in part) by Don Turnbull then it was bound to be good.  If I remember right I played this one after Lost City.  I loved the tenor and mood of the module. It inspired an adventure I wrote in 88 called "Home by the Sea".  Parts of that adventure were then later used in my Ghosts of Albion adventure Blight, which took place in Ireland.  So it all came full circle.

26. City of Skulls, 1993 (WGR6)
This is an odd one. I never played it, never ran it and never really heard anything about it.  This was near the end of my Ravenloft games and very, very close to the time where I took a huge break from D&D.  I will check it out sometime, but doubt if I'll ever run it.

25. Dragons of Despair, 1984 (DL1)
I never played or ran any of the Dragonlance modules.  I enjoyed the books when they came out and I liked the idea that everyone playing was going through it all at the same time.  Hey, maybe someone should revive this for the next D&D Encounters!  I loved the idea and I loved the new design of the modules, but even then it felt a little railroady to me.  Plus I wanted to use my own characters.

24. City of the Spider Queen, 2002
I am not a good judge of this one. I don't like Drizzt. I don't like R.A. Salvatore. I never really cared for the Forgotten Realms till about 4th Edition.  I don't really know anything about this module. I suspect it was added to the list because there was a dearth of "modern" adventures and most of the others were "Greyhawk" related.

23. The Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun, 1982 (WG4)
Now this adventure...This one I can get behind.  I never played this one, but I have run it twice. It's a death dealer and a peak into what might have been coming as a narrative arc if Gygax had been into such things.  This module is one of out first peeks into the horror that is Tharzidun, a god that is part Cthulhu and part Satan in my game.  I am weaving material from this module into my larger campaign.

22. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, 1982 (S4)
The same is true for this module. I remember buying it as soon as it came out and I begged my DM to run me through it.  I have run it myself twice since, the most recent time with my Dragonslayers group.  This is one of my most favorite modules. It has a vampire, Iggwilv, tons of new demons (many that later became part of the Monster Manual II) and just enough puzzles to keep the players on their toes. Running it this last time was a lot of fun.

21. Dark Tower, 1979 from Judge’s Guild (JG 0088)
While I would argue that this is an obligatory JG entry, this one is actually a lot of fun.  I never played it myself and it is so rare on eBay that it has been cost prohibative.  Thankfully we have PDFs of the Original and of the 3.5 update.

20. Scourge of the Slave Lords, 1986 (A1-4)
Another classic getting the reprint treatment.  I remember playing this one in 8th grade as well.  My DM at the time folded the Lost City into the A series to make a campaign out of them. Also he had a copy of Grimtooth's Traps which made everything deadlier. Or as he said "better".  I still have a thief stuck somewhere in a pit trap.

19. Against the Cult of the Reptile God, 1982 (N1)
I have never played or run this one.   I have though always wanted to use it as a start of a "Second" campaign,  After running the Classical Canon, I would start with a new campaign focusing on reptiles as the enemy.  Work in some modern "Reptoids" and have a go at it.  Maybe someday I will still do this.  But this is a fun adventure to read.

18. The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan, 1980 (C1)
Another great old module I never played, but read many times.  Like N1 I always hoped that I could use this one as part of a second campaign.  Though given some of the elements I would not be amiss using it in my "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.  I already have too many modules/adventures for the 5-7 level range.

17. Ruins of Undermountain, 1991
Ah. This is one that I have always known about but never really bothered with.  It was Forgotten Realms so I never gave it much thought.  Though I always thought this was more of a campaign expansion, ie part of the the whole Underdark deal so I never considered it an adventure.

16. Isle of Dread, 1980 (X1)
Oh the hours I spent pouring over this map.  This was Tom Moldvay's love letter to the pulp era and to such classic horror movies as King Kong. This also included the first full map of the Known World.  I ran it many times as a kid and it was one of the first modules I ran for my son.  He wanted to go an island of monsters, "like in Godzilla".  This did not disappoint him or me.  More so than any other adventure, the Dragonslayers were born here.

15. Castle Amber, 1981 (X2)
Another great. Again Moldvay's pulp horror influences are showing here, in particular his love for the works of Clark Ashton Smith. This time we enter an old house full of crazy characters and plenty of dangers.  This could have come off as a "fun house" dungeon, but something in the presentation is different.  Maybe it is the undertones of horror and dread.   My players in our 5e game are going through this one now. I have dropped the first hints of the "coming darkness" to them here.
This is one of my personal favorites. Certainly part of my top 5.

14. Dead Gods, 1997
Dead Gods is not an adventure I have ever run or been in, but it is one I have used quite a bit.  There are a number of elements in it that I use for my "Rise of Orcus" plot. Especially back in the 4e days and the rise of Orcus adventures.  Honestly there are enough adventures out there that you could build a universe (and edition) spanning mega campaign on nothing more than stopping the machinations of Orcus.  One day I should give that a try.

13. Dwellers of the Forbidden City, 1981 (I1)
This is a great adventure and part of my "Second Campaign" (AGGHHH too many adventures to play!) it is also at the 4th-7th level sweet spot.  This one is a key part of that idea since it introduced the Yuan-ti, a monster I have used repeatedly; often calling them Ophidians.   It has elements that would fit in nicely with my 5th edition group, but I have too many adventures for this level.

12. The Forge of Fury, 2000
So this is our obligatory 3e adventure I think.  I never played it or ran it, thought I have read it.  Personally I think The Sunless Citadel was better and should have been on this list.  It was the first and introduced a generation to Meepo.  Sure he was no Aleena, but you could also say that Aleena was no Meepo!

11. The Gates of Firestorm Peak, 1996
Ugh.  Sorry, but there is a lot about this module I just don't like.  I don't care for the shoehorn plot for starters and I hated the Skills & Powers books. Som much that it threw me off of D&D till 3e came out.  It was "Lovecraftian" and I did like that.  I suspect that is why it is on this list to be honest. Though many of the ideas in this module came into sharper focus during the 3e years.

10. Return to the Tomb of Horrors, 1998
You have to admit. This is a total cheat.  I have it, I enjoyed it and I like the idea that the Tomb is something that people can keep going back too (whatever the edition).  As a sequel there is a lot to like. As a stand alone and on it's own merits though it might be passable.

9. White Plume Mountain, 1979 (S2)
I am inordinately fond of the S series of modules.  This one is no different.  It of course makes 0 sense, but works great as an epic D&D adventure. Plus it gave us Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor.

8. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
In many ways I like this one better than the original. I like the idea of returning to the Temple I also like the idea of talking in game about adventures that came before.  Gives me a sense of continuity.   This is one of my favorite 3.x era modules to be honest.

7. The Keep on the Borderlands, 1979 (B1)
What can I honestly say about this one?  The Cave of Chaos were as well traveled as a local Mall in the 1980s.   When I think "Classic Canon" this is the first thing that comes to mind.

6. The Desert of Desolation, 1987 (I3-5)
Another total cheat this "super" module is made up of Pharoah (I3), Oasis of the White Palm (I4) and Lost Tomb of Martek (I5).   Though to be totally fair they are linked together. Another really great set of adventures I would LOVE to play or run (read them many times) but not likely to.  Maybe if I do my "Second Campaign".  There is a lot in these I have used elsewhere though.

5. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, 1980 (S3)
"You know what AD&D needs?  Freaking laser guns! Lasers and killer robots!"  Seriously. Has there ever been a module to encapsulate everything the late 70s and early 80s was all about more than this one?  It even has a karate instructor robot.  I am going to add in a break-dancing robot that moves to a funky Herbie Hancock beat when I run this next.  Which should be soon. I am going totally gonzo with it too. I am grabbing bits of Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha too.   In fact since the characters are higher level than the module requires I am doing a sort of "Return to the Barrier Peaks" spin on it. I am going to add some material from The Illithiad as well.

4. The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985 (T1-4)
Another of the classic canon. If you didn't start your adventure in the keep, then chances are you started it here.  I have always wanted to run this one and never have.  I have used pieces of it before.
I suppose if I do my "second campaign" I will start with this and change the temple a bit.

3. Tomb of Horrors, 1978 (S1)
We just finished this one and it was every bit the meat grinder it was rumored to be.  I had gone through back in the day, but running it was a completely different experience.  Now I might be branded as a heretic here but it is not really that good of an adventure.  Really it isn't. There are lot things in the adventure that don't make sense except in a D&D world.  That being said it is a rite of passage and everyone should try it at least once under their favorite edition or at least once under 1st ed as Gary intended it to be.

2. Ravenloft, 1983 (I6)
Here we go. This is my favorite module on the list. I just love it; warts and all.  Yeah there are some real leaps in logic in this one and there are plenty of reasons NOT to like it, but I don't care. I think it is great. It's a Hammer Horror film in D&D form right down to the small "Hammer Hamlet" village with terrified peasants.  There are vampires, gypsies, werewolves, really strong zombies, gargoyles. Even a huge pipe organ played by the vampire.  You can almost hear Toccata and Fugue in D minor while running it. I have played through this once and I have ran it three or four times.  I would love to try it sometime under the Ghosts of Albion rules.  I am going to take my 5e group through it when they complete Castle Amber.

1. Queen of Spiders, 1986 (G1-3, D1-3, Q1)
The first AD&D campaign arc.  We talk alot about being "plot free" in our adventures but when it get right down to it we love a good story arc and the GDQ was that.  I am not 100% sure that Q1 lived up the promise of the G and D series, but damn was it fun.
This super module was made up of:

Back in the day EVERYONE was going through this. It was the D&D Encounters of it's time.  The only problem was no one was doing it at exactly the same time or way.  So I know dozens of stories about how these turned out. I have dozens of my own.  Plus that Bill Willingham cover of the Giants is one of the most iconic covers of the age I think.

There you are. The 30 greatest adventures as ranked by Dungeon Magazine.
Do you agree or disagree?  What is missing?

Here are my honorable mentions.

In Search of the Unknown, 1978 (B1)
Every adventure starts somewhere. Mine usually start here.  This is my go to module for a quick a easy sandbox style dungeon crawl.  I have run it half a dozen times or more with new groups and it is always a thrill.

Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981 (B3)
Yes it is a rather silly adventure, but I really enjoy it.  Plus the backstory on it makes it a lot more fun.

Palace of the Vampire Queen, 1976 from WeeWarriors (V2)
The first ever published adventure or "DM's Kit" as it was called then.  What it lacks detail it makes up for in style.  I have ran this one twice now under various systems.  It works with everything to be honest; it is that sandboxy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Desert Elves & Orcs

I was working on a desert based adventure for my son's game the other day and I got to thinking about some things I really liked from AD&D 2nd Ed. Desert Elves and Al-Qadim. In my Mstaroerth world I have an area that is roughly equal to the Sahara desert. I am thinking of putting some the Al-Qadim stuff there. I would include Desert Elves, that also appeared in 3rd Ed. For me the desert elves would be tall, thin, dark skinned and be the merchants and royalty of the land. I would use them to typify what is thought of as the best stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs (the hospitality, the reverence for tradition and religion), not that there would not be "Bad" ones per se, but I am saving my bad guy role for another race. Humans. Humans of this land fell prey to the Necromancer Kings and thus most humans are seen as defilers, infidels and outright evil. Most of the time this stereotype will play out.

But what about Orcs? Well if the desert elves are the sultans and emirs of the land, then the orcs are their body guards. That's right. I want elves and orcs working together. What happened was many millennia ago when the Necromancer Kings rose to power it was the elves and the orcs that fought them. Once united they then discovered that they had skills that were mutually beneficial to each other. Orcs are still militaristic with small war cadres connected to powerful elf families. For an orc it is an honor to serve since the more powerful the elf family the stronger their own cadre is respected. The stronger the orc cadre, the more respected the family is and the more likely they will get goods to trade. An elf sultan will travel without his wife for example, but never without his orc escorts. I am also thinking that these groups of elves and orcs have also never heard of the elf-orcs wars that plague their cousins. Again stealing a bit from Al-Qadim here, but that is cool. Unlike Al-Qadim I was thinking of making these elves monotheistic and the orcs still worshiping altered versions of their own gods. For example Grumush was a great military leader, not a blood thirsty killer.

There were no Halflings, gnomes or dwarves here. But I will use Yuan-Ti, or rather my world's counter-part, the Ophidians. I have not decided on classes yet, but I am sure they will be slight alterations on the existing ones. For example a Sha'ir will be a normal magic user in OD&D or Spellcraft & Swordplay, and maybe a special kind of warlock in 4e. I have not figured out all the lands yet other than basics, but I am getting the urge to pull down my Al-Qadim information. I'd add some Dark Sun into it as well, IF I felt it fit and it really doesn't. Dark Sun always felt more "John Carter of Mars" to me than "Arabian Nights". What I like most about this idea is it is not Tolkienesque-fantasty-Europe.

I mentioned my Ærypt is a pastiche of Arypt, Erypt and Egypt with Gygax's Necropolis and Ravenloft's Har'Akir thrown in. So this is the lands west of that.

Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.