Thursday, May 13, 2010


I had a couple minor epiphanies yesterday (what do you know…it was Wedesday, which is the day of thought as described by Wotan, Odin, and Mercury). Now in the spirit of Thor’s Day, I’ll be expansive and share ‘em with y’all.

#1 I might be past my prime. All these numerous aches and pains (and injuries) that seem to be taking forever to heal, not to mention my receding hairline, may be indicative of the fact that I’m on the other side of 36 and am not doing nearly enough to stay young…you know: yoga, vegan diet, fasting, abstaining from booze, living in the country and drinking pure, mountain spring water. I’ll need to ramp up my “healthful living” if I’m going to keep up with all those young bloggers around the sphere.

#2 Every single adventure module I dig, appreciate, or find myself inspired by was written BEFORE 1985. With the possible exception of Return to White Plume Mountain (1999) and maybe H2: The Mines of Bloodstone (1986)…but the former is based on my favorite original module and the latter seems mainly a pastiche of D1 and D3. Regardless, it’s fairly sad to realize that the Unearthed Arcana, possibly my favorite RPG book OF ALL TIME up till the age of 15 or 16 (really!) is the great dividing line between the gold and the dross…or rather “The Shit” and the shitty.

I should note that while the information from the UA was immediately incorporated (upon its publication) into my long-running D&D campaign, we (my friends and I) had mainly grown beyond modules (writing our own PC-specific adventures) at the time, so the drop-off in module quality was imperceptible. Oh, our co-DM continued to purchase some, but in general she cannibalized ‘em and made ‘em fit her own purposes. There was nothing I saw or read (or played or ran) after 1985 that really got me cranked the way those early adventures did. With the possible exception of the two modules I list above.

Why am I even looking at this? Well, hard-on-the-heels of yesterday's post I started thinking about the specific AD&D modules that inspired me. Yes that’s right: I wanted to post a NEW LIST! Whereas previously I listed my Top Ten D&D modules for ANY edition (and yet still none are later than 1985), this new list is AD&D only and may include modules that I haven’t actually played OR ran as the DM. This is purely inspirational stuff for me…i.e. it makes me want to play AD&D just flipping through ‘em or thinking about ‘em.

Top Ten Inspirational AD&D Modules

#10 WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun – I admit it, I have never played or ran this module. In fact, I’ve owned it for less than a year. And it looks DAMN tough to “solve” or “get right.” However, I have run S4 which also looked tough (in fact, no one I’ve run through it has ever survived to get to the deeper caverns) and this one is shorter, more focused and, hell, more scary. I love it.

#9 G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King – The G series did not make my Top Ten list of modules that I want to play, but the 3rd module of the trilogy is about as “D&D” as a module gets. Giants, Drow, scheming dwarves, red dragons, weird elder gods, chests full of treasure (and poison needle traps!), a river of lava…and three descending levels…this is the archetypal dungeon delve as far as I’m concerned, even beating the pants off B2. Plus, as far as ambience goes, darkness back-lit by the glow of magma is pretty rope-a-dope.

#8 & #7 A3: Aerie of the Slave Lords and A4: Dungeon of the Slave Lords – I wasn’t exactly sure how to rank these as (similar to WG4) I have never played/run them. Lawrence Schick’s A4 is truly inspiring…I only wish I had a group of players adventurous enough to try it out! And it does seem to be a fitting climax to the series. A3 on the other hand is one of the few valid arguments for the separation of race and class, as I’m not sure you could really have the same type of show-down with simple B/X archetypes (I’ll have to try re-writing it and see). However, it is the city of the Slave Lords that makes me want to play AD&D, as I can see a good group of players spending many sessions role-playing their explorations of the town…all those random encounter tables of AD&D get a chance to shine!

#6 S2: White Plume Mountain – some may think it’s strange that the module I’ve blogged about so much doesn’t crack the Top 5. The fact of the matter is I DO consider it one of the best written modules of all time (certainly it’s one of my favorites). But as far as INSPIRING me to play…well, maybe I’ve just ran it so many times over the years that it doesn’t give me the same juice as the next five on the list.

#5 N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God – this is the last adventure module on the list that I haven’t actually played or ran. However, for whatever reason, just holding it in my hands wants me to break out the PHB, roll up an elven fighter and equip him with ring mail and a long sword. Reading N1 I just think it is an excellent module for a group of experienced, MATURE role-players that want to start a new campaign with low level characters. There’s just so much more meat to it than the average low level adventure…it makes me want to start a campaign (case in point: I have run T1: The Village of Hommelet and it doesn’t make my list of inspiring modules, despite being excellent).

#4 S1: Tomb of Horrors – As with G3 and S2, I have plenty of experience with this module and a lot of feelings/memories associated with it. For that reason alone, it gets my heart racing to play AD&D. However, if I could find any players crazy enough to try it, I would jump at the chance to run it again. Hell, I’d even let them roll up characters using the Unearthed Arcana!

#3 D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa – it was tough figuring out which number D2 comes in at. I love the fish guys, I love the vaguely Lovecraftian nature of their slimy under-city, and the cover art by Roslov is VERY inspiring. As with G3, I find something very archetypally “D&D” about D1 and D2, but especially the latter. And as with A3, the inclusion of different classes for the KT in such an interesting fashion makes it tough to hang onto my “race as class” hardliner stance.

#2 I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City – now that I’ve got the first 8 listed, #2 on the list is really a no-brainer. The artwork alone (exterior and interior) shouts AD&D, and even the tasloi images (I am NOT a fan of tasloi) makes me want to run a game, let alone the yuan-ti (of whom I AM a fan). The module has everything one needs to run a short session, or a multi-session mini-campaign, and I totally dig on that. Even the pre-generated characters (including a bard, a druid, and a half-orc cleric!) are super cool. I will always remember I1 as the first module I read that included an evil wizard’s SPELL BOOK as part of the treasure trove (and probably the best treasure I’d ever seen). I don’t even think Gygax gave spell books to his Drow magic-users, a gross oversight if you ask me.

#1 Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits – I love this module. Every time I see it I want to start an AD&D campaign. If that’s not the definition of “inspiring” I don’t know what is. I know I’ve said elsewhere that White Plume Mountain may be the best module ever written due to its tight focus and great example of D&Disms, but this is probably my favorite module of all time. Truly. I don’t even need to HOLD the damn thing to get inspired…just seeing the ultra-creepy cover on display makes me want to play it. The map is a masterpiece. The interior art is excellent. The dimensional gates can provide years of adventuring. As with the Kuo-Toa, the Driders make a pretty fair argument for separating class and race (by the way, driders as a concept are probably one of my favorite D&D monsters of all time). Lolth is a badass…probably the coolest original monster entry of 1st edition AD&D, not based on a legendary or mythic figure (THAT would probably be Demogorgon). Even the NAME of the module is inspiring. It’s like the name for some 1981 heavy metal album (probably British, like Iron Maiden or Ozzie). And from experience, I can say that playing OR running this module makes me want to play MORE D&D. Honestly, this is hands-down the most inspirational AD&D module I own.

Happy Thursday, folks!
: )


  1. Come on, soldier, shrug off the pain!
    I will be 41 in June, drink beer or rum & coke (and brandy slush season is coming!), eat just about anything (living in third world countries as an English teacher does that to you), although I am active outdoors a lot and I keep up with the younger bloggers.
    Pain is temporary. Still.

    Nice write up on the adventures, too. My LL group had a little hiccup due to players having schedule changes, so I might run N1 with LL+AEC for the reasons that you mentioned.

  2. Hmm, I'm going to steal you 10 ten list for a blog. *runs away quickly*

  3. Excellent Top 10 List.

    I'm with you on G3 - It's almost an 'ideal' module. Probably my most dramatic moment as a player back in the day was finding out about Eclavdra's plans...

    For WG4, please come over and throw in your two cents:
    (forgive the narrative overlay and the ungodly length of some of the posts...)

  4. A solid list, and your are dead right with your choice for #1... Q1 is extremely inspiring, what with the alternate worlds angle, spell effect mods, significant mapping challenges and the sexiest black hat in D&D.

  5. @ Avaults: The pain is getting better...I found a magical tonic: bike riding! Really weird actually. Good luck with N1!

    @ Tim: : )

    @ Scottz: I *have* been following this series...I'll try to throw my two cents in.

    @ Vincent: That's what I'm talking about. ; )

  6. So I'm two years late and several dollars short, but thanks for this listing. I've been attempting to get my hands on a handful of these and thus far, the ones I've read, I agree are solid inspirations.