Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Top Ten Adventure Modules

I am a bit of a perfectionist by nature…and I don’t mean that in the good way. I mean it in a “sometimes stalled to the point of inaction because of wanting things to be perfect way.” Sometimes referred to as the Virgoan “Analysis Paralysis” (you perfectionist Virgos out there know what I’m talking about). Anyway, it makes it hard for me to do Top Ten lists. But I’m pretty sure I’ve got this one nailed down. I’ve played, owned, and read many modules over the years…more than 40, and that’s only counting D&D modules (I’ve owned/played many TSR adventure modules from Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, Marvel Superheroes, Gamma World, and Top Secret). For the purpose of this list, it only includes: 1 – D&D adventure modules 2 – Modules that I have actually run as a DM 3 – Modules that were published as modules (not Dragon/Dungeon magazine adventures) The first consideration is necessary to cut down on the number of modules for review…I’d have to add at least another two dozen modules to the mix if I looked at non-D&D modules, and anyway comparing D&D to non-D&D is comparing apples to oranges as far as I’m concerned. The second consideration is only fair…I may like how, say, Return to White Plume Mountain looks and reads, but since I’ve never run it, I can’t really judge how it plays. The adventures on this list are ones that I wouldn’t mind playing AGAIN. Likewise, while I have played in some modules that I haven’t owned/read, these ones are NOT being considered as I have no idea how far the DM may have deviated from the adventure…in other words, I don’t know if my enjoyment (or lack thereof) is a product of the DM’s technique or of the adventure design. The third consideration is obvious. However, let it be known that my “modules” include only their original published form as I purchased them, NOT “super-modules” where individual modules were later compiled. There are a couple exceptions to this: modules published together (G1-3, D1-2) are considered as a single module. And modules not released in any other fashion (T2-4) are considered as single modules. So after much careful deliberation (and scratching out and re-writing) and without further ado, here’s my new Top Ten list: TOP TEN ADVENTURE MODULES 10. C2: Hidden Shrine of Tamochan 9. I2: Tomb of the Lizard King 8. I4: Oasis of the White Palm 7. D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth 6. B2: The Keep on the Borderlands 5. X1: The Isle of Dread 4. S1: Tomb of Horrors 3. Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits 2. I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City 1. S2: White Plume Mountain The #1 module may come as little surprise to some, seeing as how this blog is named after one of White Plume Mountain's iconic magical artifacts. However, I was a bit surprised. I actually prefer the “flavor” of Dwellers of the Forbidden City (as well as the writing) so much that in the end I had to ask myself, ‘if given a choice between I1 and S2, which would you rather run right here, right now?’ As I’ve said before, S2 is such a great example of economy of design as well as a showcase of what D&D is all about (weird magic, monsters, tricks & traps) that I can’t knock it down from #1. But it was close. I also figured Tomb of Horrors was destined for the top spot, or at least the top 3, but my recent re-analysis caused me to think otherwise. Conspicuous absences include the other S modules (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth), as well as Village of Hommelet, Vault of the Drow, and Against the Giants. All I can say is: it is tough to narrow it down to 10. There are so many great modules I’ve played…and would still play, that I could have easily made this a top 15 or top 20. But then I’d be like the NBA (where more than 50% of the teams go to the play-offs…WTF?!). Lines have to be drawn. T1 is good, but B2 is better. D3 and G1-3 are absolutely necessary for the full enjoyment of D1-2 and Q1…but for me, they are the drag of the series. I like S3, I’ve run S3, the froghemoth is probably on my Top 10 list of all-time favorite monsters…but the module has several flaws that keep it out of my Top 10 list. I’ll be writing up my reasoning for each of my selections of the next few days (well, that’s the plan anyway). It was a damn tough selection process (well, it occupied a lot of my doodling focus during a team meeting at work, and at least two different lunch breaks) with much figurative gnashing of teeth and tugging of hair. Even the modules listed are not without flaws (which is what allowed me to sort the final order). But for now, that’s my list and I’m sticking to it!


  1. I'm a Virgo and I endorse this message.

    Yep, Paralysis by Analysis is often my Modus Operandi unfortunately.

  2. Hey, I'm a Cancer and I suffer from the same symptoms. :)

  3. Ahh...and I'm a Scorpio. But it is symptomatic of the Virgo temperament (just as Cancers are prone to worrying about family members and stress eating).

    The thing about astrology is: every sign is an archetype and ALL archetypes are present to a greater or lesser degree in all people. When you say "I'm a Cancer" or "I'm a Leo" all you're saying is the Sun was present in that sign at the time of your birth...and that's the archetype that shines the brightest. As a Cancer, you may very well have some Virgo in your chart (especially the planet Venus, which never moves more than two signs away from the Sun).

    Sorry, if I confuse anyone with these occasional off-the-cuff astrological remarks. Just one of my (many) little foibles.
    ; )

  4. Hey JB, this is an excellent top ten list. You can cross-post this to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/ and link back to your site. We are trying to create a directory for top ten lists where people can find your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.