Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works





+ Log in or register to post
Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    Eternal Optimist SILVER DEFENDER
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    MerricB's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Waubra, Victoria, Australia
    Posts
    11,887
    Blog Entries
    37
    D&D Doctor Who I Defended The Walls!

    Ignore MerricB

    Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works

    This is a review of Castle Zagyg: the Upper Works by Gary Gygax, a boxed adventure module detailing the upper levels of his Castle Greyhawk dungeon. The publication is by Troll Lord Games and should be arriving in game shops in the near future, although it is possible to order directly from their website.

    The adventure is designed for the Castles & Crusades game, and is very compatible with earlier iterations of D&D (oD&D, 1st & 2nd edition in particular).

    Overall, the boxed set consists of the following:

    • Book 1: The Mouths of Madness - 44 pages, revised from the earlier release in the East Mark Gazetteer, detailing the caves around the base of the "moat" around the castle.
    • Book 2: Ruins of the Castle Precincts - 48 pages, detailing the walls, towers, gatehouses and other buildings that stand on the surface over the dungeon.
    • Book 3: East Wall Towers - 20 pages, detailing the two massive towers that flank the ruined castle.
    • Book 4: Castle Fortress - 44 pages, detailing the actual fortress level itself.
    • Book 5: Store Rooms - 44 pages, detailing the first real dungeon level of the Castle, along with new monsters, magic and NPCs.
    • Maps & Illustration booklet - 36 pages, B&W illustrations and maps. About half the booklet is maps, the rest illustrations of encounters
    • B&W Poster Map (28 cm x 42 cm) of the Mouths of Madness/Store Rooms
    • B&W Poster Map (28 cm x 42 cm) of the Castle Precincts/Towers/Fortress
    • Colour Poster Map (28 cm x 42 cm) of the wilderness around the castle.


    Book 1: The Mouths of Madness
    For many older D&D gamers, their first experiences with the D&D game was through a module included in the Basic D&D set entitled The Keep on the Borderlands.

    Gygax returned to that adventure to gain inspiration for this part of the adventure. Instead of the "Caves of Chaos", you have the "Mouths of Madness". Each cave section contains a different tribe of humanoids, with some caves having access to the castle dungeons proper. A description of the wilderness around the castle is also included.

    "The Mouths of Madness" was previously published in a preview product, "The Eastmark Gazetteer", and I've been using as the basis of one of my 4e campaign for the past few months. There are nineteen different cave systems detailed, with the total number of encounter areas being 61. Kobolds, Orcs, Goblins, Gnolls, Bugbears - pretty much every humanoid monster from original D&D can be found in these caves, living in discrete tribes. You also have a few unusual monsters turning up as well, just if you thought everything would be predictable.

    The main impression I receive from this section of the adventure is one of mundanity. It's not that such is bad; it's just that it isn't full of extravagant, fantastical encounters. The rivalries between the tribes are petty and utterly believable, and the descriptive passages of what each lair contains evoke misery and cruelness. There's a sense of reality to the encounters that isn't always achieved in D&D adventures.

    Gygax included plenty of notes for characterising the tribes. The goblins have prisoners, the bugbears are forward scouts for the rest of their tribe, and the hobgoblins are losing a war with the gnolls. A DM who wants more than just one battle after another has plenty of material to work with.

    I don't always appreciate the old-school form of Gygax's encounters: requiring the party to search for 30 minutes to find the treasure in some encounters rewards an overly slow and picky style of adventuring. However, with encounters like "Charlie" the Ogre, who invites them in for tea and jam, but is lacking the jam, there is the potential for some great adventures.

    Random encounter tables are included for the caves and wilderness. and the set-piece wilderness encounters draw a lot from old fairy-tale and mythical lore: the ogre who has kidnapped many children and forces them to work as slaves is a case in point. However, these are a distraction from the main part of the work: the ruins of the castle.

    Gygax notes in his preface to the work that this isn't exactly the "original" Castle Greyhawk, but rather a distillation of all the versions he'd used in the past. He has described it as the "best" version of the work, being also in a form that your regular DM could use it (rather than the original, brief, handscribbled notes which were often used as the basis for improvising encounters).

    Book 2: Ruins of the Castle Precincts
    Above the caves, the exterior portion of Castle Zagyg awaits. This section was mainly ignored by the original Castle Greyhawk players in preference to the dungeons, as a note from James Ward indicates.

    What you have here are three sections of a walled castle: the cobbled (lower) courtyard, the grassy (middle) courtyard, and then the inner (garden) courtyard. Finally, the fortress stands at the back of all of these and is detailed in Book 4.

    Book 2 concentrates on the walls and outbuildings of the castle. These are primarily inhabited by goblin and human bandits, as well as giant rats, spiders and centipedes. The walls are breached in several areas, allowing a adventuring party access to areas that may be beyond its capabilities, although most of this is written with low level adventurers in mind.

    The humanoids here have a more organised feel to them than the tribes of the caves below. Negotiation with bandits and humanoids may be necessary in some areas, for although individual rooms have only a handful of creatures in them, the combined forces that may attack the party can be overwhelming.

    This section of the adventure is the first to use additional maps from the Maps & Illustration booklet to show the contents of individual buildings; in fact, the bulk of the maps in that booklet are used by this section of the adventure.

    39 buildings are covered in this book with many having several rooms.

    Boxed text is used to describe each encounter area, but at times it becomes overlong: it's great to read, but not so great to use in play.

    Compared to the caves, we have more fanatastical and whimsical encounters: a child's ghost, an animated statue of Zagyg, a temple to the god of Magic, golems and other things of wonder. There's even a goblin cobbler, who can provide an entertaining encounter for those willing to negotiate and role-play.

    Book 3: East Wall Towers
    This book, at only 20 pages, is the shortest of the five adventure sections. It details the two large (50 foot diameter, seven level) towers that flank the east wall of the ramparts.

    One tower is inhabited by a mad druid and many animals and insects; the other by the "Crimson Hand Cult", which Greyhawk fans will recognise as an appearance of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Apart from these new inhabitants, remnants of the original inhabitants of the towers add character to the room descriptions: a priest's letter, a portrait of a soldier, and other such touches bring a sense of depth and history to these areas.

    There's no doubt that the Crimson Hand Cult will be one of the more challenging foes for low-level characters, with 4th and 5th level NPCs amongst their roster and the group working together to repel intruders; in contrast, the druid's tower tends to be more individual encounters with some roleplaying.

    Book 4: Castle Fortress
    At over 100 encounter areas and 44 pages, Book 4 is the most packed of all the books for information. Continuing on with the "realistic" theme, the first part of the fortress is now controlled by a group of bandits. However, once they are dealt with, the rest of the fortress is a lot more monster-light. Instead, it is full of fantastical inventions and magical encounters: exactly what you might expect in a castle once owned by a mad archmage!

    My particular favourite encounter includes a magical version of "The Turk", the famous chess-playing automaton. It is enough for me to want my players to discover it immediately! There are also references to the arch-mage "Eneever Zig", who readers of Gygax's short-story collection Night Arrant may well recognise.

    Although I say the rest of this section is monster-light, it is by no means monster-free, and some of the monsters are potentially quite dangerous. However, as with all this release, it is scaled to a moderately low-level party: a level 3 or 4 party would be able to deal with almost any encounter here.

    Book 5: The Storerooms
    Finally, we reach the first level of the dungeons (and there was much rejoicing!) The first level is described in 50 areas, 10 of which deal with the Old Guard Kobolds. The remaining areas have a assortment of other monsters, tricks, traps and NPCs to amuse the DM and his or her players. I am glad to say that not everything is hostile.

    Unfortunately, the description of the Storerooms only takes up half of the book. The remainder describes new monsters, magic items, a few NPCs and ends with a glossary of terms that brought back vivid memories of The Keep on the Borderlands. Useful material, to be sure, but I want more of the dungeons!

    The first dungeon level is designed for 2nd and 3rd level adventurers. There are a few encounters that are extremely difficult and should be avoided (and are avoidable), and the Old Guard Kobolds should always be approached with care, but otherwise adventurers have a fair chance of surviving.

    Notes and Comments
    Well, that's the contents of Castle Zagyg: the Upper Works. So, what do I think of it? Honestly: Vaguely disappointed, and that's despite it being made up of some great material. The reason for my disappointment is due to the Upper Works, much like Yggsburgh, isn't the actual dungeons of Castle Zagyg.

    What works about the adventure is the way that Gary Gygax and his amanuensis, Jeffrey Talanian, have detailed the ruins. There are groups of rival humanoids living in places that, every so often, have incredible magical effects. This isn't a high fantasy adventure where everything is astonishing: instead the magical areas are uncommon enough to not lose their impact when discovered.

    There is no overarching storyline in the adventure; the dungeon is designed for groups to go where they will, no matter the consequences. DMs are expected to add to the material here to best fit their own groups. Indeed, the castle should be an evolving site, with new encounters replacing those that have been overcome, as the adventure notes.

    The biggest problem I have with the entire package is this: Gary Gygax, in his later years, decided to go with a most unhistorical valuation of gold to silver, namely 50:1. (Historically, for most of the period D&D is derived from, it wandered between 10:1 and possibly 20:1, staying more near the former). Castle Zagyg also adopts something similar to a "silver standard" in its costings.

    The net result of these decisions is to throw the economy of the base D&D and C&C books completely off. It was not helped by the Yggsburgh book using misprinted costs, and then having most weapons being worth under 1 gp, whilst swords cost over 100 gp apiece!

    Anyone using this adventure will need to adjust treasure values to fit the baseline of his or her campaign; it is a serious flaw in the adventure, and a grave misjudgement by the adventure's editors. Although the rest of the adventure is great, I wish it used a more standard monetary system.

    Unfortunately, Jeffrey Talanian and Gygax Games parted ways following Gary Gygax's death. This puts the production of the next part of Castle Zagyg in doubt. Jeff did an astonishingly good job preparing this adventure from Gary's notes, and it is hard to see who could replace him.

    Even if this remains the only part of Castle Zagyg that sees print, it's still an incredible product. I recommend that anyone who enjoys the "old school" form of dungeon delving obtain this boxed set.

 

  • #2
    Registered User
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    amethal's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Guernsey
    Posts
    1,536
    Blog Entries
    14

    Ignore amethal
    Thanks for the interesting review. Its got me thinking about buying this product.

    I have no wish to buy Yggsburgh, however. Would it matter if I just bought the Upper Works, or will I start wishing I had Yggsburgh as well?

    Also, how is the editing? I get the impression (rightly or wrongly) that Castles and Crusades products tend to have a fair number of spelling and formatting mistakes. I'd find that especially irritating in a forty dollar product.
    Embrace the chaos!

    Pathfinder RPG (no hearts were broken in the making of this product)

  • #3
    Eternal Optimist SILVER DEFENDER
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    MerricB's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Waubra, Victoria, Australia
    Posts
    11,887
    Blog Entries
    37
    D&D Doctor Who I Defended The Walls!

    Ignore MerricB
    Quote Originally Posted by amethal View Post
    Thanks for the interesting review. Its got me thinking about buying this product.

    I have no wish to buy Yggsburgh, however. Would it matter if I just bought the Upper Works, or will I start wishing I had Yggsburgh as well?

    Also, how is the editing? I get the impression (rightly or wrongly) that Castles and Crusades products tend to have a fair number of spelling and formatting mistakes. I'd find that especially irritating in a forty dollar product.
    There is no need to buy Yggsburgh; this works very well without it.

    The editing seems very good indeed - which indeed is a change from the Trolls. I put that down to Jeff Talanian's influence, as he actually understands the English language. At least, nothing has leapt out at me; I haven't read everything in close detail.
    Merric Blackman
    Merric's Blog - a blog about gaming | Now on Twitter!
    Reviews of classic D&D adventures
    Visualising Combat in Dungeons & Dragons | What's Changed in Dungeons & Dragons 5E
    Merric's Law of Miniatures: Non-Random Packaging, Cheap Prices, and a Large Range of Figures: Choose two.

  • #4
    Registered User
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    amethal's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Guernsey
    Posts
    1,536
    Blog Entries
    14

    Ignore amethal
    Thanks for the response. Much appreciated.
    Embrace the chaos!

    Pathfinder RPG (no hearts were broken in the making of this product)

  • #5
    Registered User
    Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)

    Filcher's Avatar

    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Rockies
    Posts
    1,047

    Ignore Filcher
    I purchased UW due to this review. (Still waiting for it to show up.) Thanks for the comprehensive reading!
    ENworld Post Edition War Club

  • #6
    4ognard
    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    TerraDave's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    A Nation's Capitol
    Posts
    6,888
    Gygax Magazine I Defended The Walls!

    Ignore TerraDave
    An excellent review of what sounds like an awesome product.




    I will try asking again: how easy to use with 4E?
    A semi-brief History of D&D and some other RPGs: Part 1: 1967-1979 Part 2: 1980-1989
    All the official stuff for 4e
    Bonus:

    4E has rituals, use them, they're magic;
    Want to see the greatest thing you will ever see? then click;
    You can use Earth as a D&D setting;
    Origins of The Rouse; (look for it)
    The Rouse responds; (look for it)
    One can appreciate both old and new D&D.

  • #7
    Eternal Optimist SILVER DEFENDER
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    MerricB's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Waubra, Victoria, Australia
    Posts
    11,887
    Blog Entries
    37
    D&D Doctor Who I Defended The Walls!

    Ignore MerricB
    Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
    How easy to use with 4E?
    It requires some conversion, although mostly you can just substitute monsters in from the MM, paying attention to the relative difficulty. It took on the order of 2-3 hours for me to convert the "Mouths of Madness" adventure, which is about 1/7 of the adventure. Not enough work that it bothers me. I can probably also wing a lot of the conversion.

    Cheers!
    Merric Blackman
    Merric's Blog - a blog about gaming | Now on Twitter!
    Reviews of classic D&D adventures
    Visualising Combat in Dungeons & Dragons | What's Changed in Dungeons & Dragons 5E
    Merric's Law of Miniatures: Non-Random Packaging, Cheap Prices, and a Large Range of Figures: Choose two.

  • #8
    4ognard
    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    TerraDave's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    A Nation's Capitol
    Posts
    6,888
    Gygax Magazine I Defended The Walls!

    Ignore TerraDave
    Thanks! Clearly it was the money/treasure part that was a bother.

    I would be a little intimidated trying to run this with 3E, but 4E, I could see it.
    A semi-brief History of D&D and some other RPGs: Part 1: 1967-1979 Part 2: 1980-1989
    All the official stuff for 4e
    Bonus:

    4E has rituals, use them, they're magic;
    Want to see the greatest thing you will ever see? then click;
    You can use Earth as a D&D setting;
    Origins of The Rouse; (look for it)
    The Rouse responds; (look for it)
    One can appreciate both old and new D&D.

  • + Log in or register to post

    Similar Threads

    1. grodog's review of Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works
      By grodog in forum RPGs & Tabletop Gaming Discussion
      Replies: 24
      Last Post: Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008, 04:47 PM
    2. Castle Zagyg - The Upper Works (review)
      By MerricB in forum RPGs & Tabletop Gaming Discussion
      Replies: 91
      Last Post: Tuesday, 21st October, 2008, 07:03 PM
    3. New Release - Castle Zagyg Vol. I (TLG PR)
      By Troll Lord in forum RPGs & Tabletop Gaming Discussion
      Replies: 0
      Last Post: Friday, 19th August, 2005, 04:05 PM
    4. Castle Zagyg
      By Crazy 'Scaper in forum RPGs & Tabletop Gaming Discussion
      Replies: 1
      Last Post: Wednesday, 20th July, 2005, 02:49 PM
    5. TLG: C&C and Zagyg's Castle
      By Razuur in forum RPGs & Tabletop Gaming Discussion
      Replies: 11
      Last Post: Friday, 14th November, 2003, 09:45 PM

    Posting Permissions

    • You may not post new threads
    • You may not post replies
    • You may not post attachments
    • You may not edit your posts
    •