Monday, August 24, 2009

Killing Giants Is My Business...And Business Is Good!

I said earlier that I was going to explain why I don't include G1-3: Against the Giants in my top ten list of all-time favorite adventures, and this is that post.

Let me say right off the bat, that I like the G's definitely up there in the top 15 or so. I've run it at least four or five times (twice completely, once only as G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl).  For a straight up dungeon crawl, it is excellent and a pretty damn tough challenge.

Heck, I even attempted to convert it to D20 when I first got my hands on D&D 3.  Easy enough, except the encounter levels are waaaay out of range of an 8th - 10th level party (even a LARGE party). And the conversions I've seen that nerf the treasure level (to keep in line with the standard D20 fare)...ick. What would a giant chieftain do with only a paltry handful of gold coins. Totally bogus, in my opinion.

OH...and the conversions I've seen remove the Hammer of Thunderbolts. What the F?!

G1-3 is a great "hack and slash" dungeon. Seven levels of monsters of the meanest stripe (GIANTS!) plus assorted beast and DRAGONS.  You really can't complain if you're a DM looking for a fun adventure romp for high level characters.

Let's talk about giants for a moment.  As a monster, one would usually think to encounter them in 1s and 2s. Heck, the oldest fairy tales and modern fantasy include giants as antagonists, but I can't think of a single literary reference where you find more than one at a time. And even for a party of low to mid level characters, a single giant (depending on the type) can be a challenge. A fire giant?  Immune to most of a magic-users offensive spells (the fire ones, in other words) one of those big boys requires A LOT of chopping due to their high hit point totals.

And WHILE the party is chopping away, the fire giant (or any giant) is going to inflict a tremendous amount of damage. High hit dice means a high percentage chance to hit, and of course the damage per blow can be devastating (especially for pre-D20 D&D PCs where hit dice/Constitution bonuses usually ends at level 9, save for some bonus hit points).

Now look at the giant as a society. A tribe or stronghold filled with these behemoths. Holy smokes!

It's like Gygax said, "All right Robilar, you want me to write-up a dungeon crawl for you even though you're 23rd level and outfitted to the teeth with magic items? Try THIS on for size!"

And that's how I like to run the G a super dungeon ROMP for high level characters. Sure, sure...the party can plot and plan and adopt a cautious strategy for waging a battle of attrition against the giants (such is even suggested in G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief). But I prefer the gung ho/gonzo style of blasting their way through group after group of heavily armed opposition in a frantic frenzy of carnage, occasionally finding respite in a random empty room (though I can recall a certain party that used a "hamster ball" tactic with an Ottiluke's resilient sphere to great effect as a method of escaping a particularly brutal encounter in G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King).

The war of attrition may be more "winnable" for lower level characters (I have NOT necessarily found this to be the case), but it is also drawn out and BORING. It's one thing to have PCs retreating from an excursion, resting up, and heading back down into unknown depths.  It is quite another when they know about 85% of what they expect to find ("oh, whadya' know...ANOTHER squad of giants...").

That isn't to say G1-3 isn't worth playing, even for those mid-level 8th to 10th level characters. There are some great tricks, traps, and treasure, not to mention GIANTS and DRAGONS the epitome of fantasy adventure of any stripe.  G1-3 also introduces one of my favorite Gygax created NPCs of all time...not King Snurre or even Eclavdra, but Obmi the Dwarf.  This little runt is so downright mean, vicious, and despicable that he's practically a one-dwarf justification for multi-class all by himself (Obmi is a fighter/thief). His inclusion is one of several things that prevents me from converting the modules to a B/X or Labyrinth Lord format (would even a 12th level Dwarf lord really do him justice? Maybe).

G1-3 is one of the last modules I found in that Montana used book store, and I know this because I'd already discovered Obmi in Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue books. Finding the NPC in the Giant modules was one helluva' "Easter Egg" for me, and I couldn't wait to sic the dirty little bugger on my PCs.  However, I strangely cannot recall any actual fights between Obmi and my PCs...either they turned out anti-climactic, or he got avoided all together. I just can't remember off-hand.

Anyway, G1-3 is a great series, and I'd be tempted to include it at #10 except for the fact that it is sooooo long.  For some folks, it makes an excellent mini-campaign by itself (assuming you have the PCs or at least the pre-gens for it). For me to include it in my Top 10, I need a slightly smaller scope.

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