|Guy would probably do better|
tossing the axe to a buddy.
Up. Of course.
[yes, we still played with character death and level drain, but in a world or wishes and resurrection, such inconveniences were petty concerns. No need to sack the Keep on the Borderlands when the party fighter was already sporting a rod of lordly might and the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd]
So it wasn't until this last week that I ever, finally, had a chance to sit down and read the thing, spurred in large part by (once again) GusL's brainstorm on how to re-skin the adventure. As I've blogged before, I dig on old fashioned fairy tales; that stuff was my bread and butter long before I acquired the title of Dungeon Master (someone really should give you a hat or something that says "DM" the first time you run a game). *AHEM* Anyway, the idea of a fairy tale castle for exploration (right after a "fairy tale apocalypse") is a pretty cool thing. Pretty darn inspiring, in my book.
Unfortunately, GusL's ideas are (*sigh*) a LOT better than the module itself. It's just not very good, and it would need more than a simple "re-skin" to make it work. Yeah, he probably wrote words to that effect in his blog post and I probably glossed over them in my enthusiasm...that happens. But there's just so much LAME in this thing. Worst of all is probably the module's assumption about the players' motivations and morality: why would they destroy the giant-ass ruby when they could simply loot and fence it? What if they decide NOT to fight the evil cleric or stop him from summoning his demon overlord? The adventure offers no explanation of the possibility...it doesn't hazard to entertain the possibility as a possibility.
The original Jean Wells (orange cover) copy of B3 is much more interesting and usable "out-o-the-box" if a little more standard: it's just a dungeon crawl through an ancient ruin. But there's a lot of other stuff going on (including a detailed wilderness outside the ruin) and no moralizing (the adventure module is explicit in the player characters option of joining with the evil cleric...should they so choose). It's still not great, and it leaves out the fairy tale aspect that was my impetus for checking out B3 in the first place, but it's a better adventure. Heck, it even provides the value of the ruby (10,000 g.p.) though this gem isn't linked to some imprisoned evil demigod; it's just loot.
There's actually a lot more loot in the original B3 adventure than in Moldvay's rewrite. The total amount of plunder one can take out of it is a bit more than 24,667 g.p. and probably more once the DM adds the suggested additions (there are a few "empty rooms" that DMs are expected to populate). This should be enough to get a party of eight PCs pretty close to 3rd level; quite a nice haul for a small, two level dungeon. By contrast, the green-covered re-issue version only yields a total of 9,776 g.p. which is pretty paltry for the recommended party size. However, if players are willing to fulfill the adventure's wishes of un-cursing the castle, each PC can expect to receive a 3,000 g.p. "bonus" as a reward from the Silver Princess herself...or 1,500 g.p. and a kick in the ass for those that chose to loot the Princess's belongings in the process. As I said, kind of lame...and disappointing.
Because, here's the thing I'm wondering: even if the treasure was good, even if the morality play wasn't there, even if the thing was an easy re-skin for a dark fairytale adventure, even if this were the case...
Would it matter? To the players? Really?
|Same maps, more treasure.|
But does this stuff matter to the players? Do the players look at a monster as anything more than a challenge with a particular set of special attacks, a certain number of hit points to be whittled down? Is treasure anything more than the way in which players keep score?
I suppose it does to a certain degree...players would get bored with boring same-old same-old after a while. If every encounter was a goblin, if every treasure was a chest of gold, if every magic item was just another +1 this or +2 that. But even so, even though it matters somewhat to players, these things don't matter so much as how they are presented by the DM. It doesn't matter nearly as much as how the DM runs the damn thing.
And, as a well-designed adventure can aid in a DM's running, I suppose me answer is that it matters quite a bit.
Neither version of B3 is particularly well-designed. I kind of like the ubues from the original (better than another clan of bugbears, for sure), but I dig the whole evil ruby/demon summoning thing from the later rewrite. I like the many new monsters and lack of moralizing in Wells's original, but I prefer the more original background of Moldvay's version (rather than yet another un-plundered ruin in need of exploration). I definitely lack the time to re-write either module in a way I'd find palatable...but then I also lack the time to come up with an original adventure of my own design. Certainly I'm not interested in working up a castle blueprint for a fairytale princess...but the maps in this module leave quite a bit to be desired. Maybe Strahd's castle would be a better re-skin for such an idea.
[sorry I didn't get to talking about swords. There's one noteworthy sword in B3: the lycanthrope chick's blade which is carved from a single gigantic ruby. Unfortunately, it has no attached value to it (even though it's potential loot...at least in the Moldvay re-write) so it might as well be, um...you know what? Never mind]