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Merric's Erratically Updated Reviews of old D&D adventures

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024


You pretty much have what makes it a great module: 1) the humanoid horde and its mountain giant leader and 2) the strange hidden parts of the temple. Each are well done and stand out, both at the time and actually now. In our case, the players could not just take the horde out right away, even with a huge battle, and so there was a period when they would infiltrate one way or another, explore some tomb stuff, and then get out. This made the final defeat of the giant and co all the more satisfying.
 

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Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Good stuff, MerricB.

I agree with your comments. There's a lot of good ideas in I5... they just need some development.

As for the "lighter elements", that's one of those really unfortunate Hickman traits and why I simply cannot enjoy his work. Whether it's Fizban, kender or gully dwarves (R A Salvatore wasn't the first D&D author to make dwarves intellectually handicapped), his "lighter elements" don't come across as funny, just really, really stupid. IMO. YMMV.

Anyway, good to see another classic review! :)
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
Whether it's Fizban, kender or gully dwarves (R A Salvatore wasn't the first D&D author to make dwarves intellectually handicapped), his "lighter elements" don't come across as funny, just really, really stupid. IMO. YMMV.

My mileage varies quite a bit just depending on how I feel! (I do think I have a lot more patience for these tricks in novels, but I enjoy whimsical D&D quite a bit - but in the context of a whimsical adventure, not a serious piece.

Anyway, good to see another classic review! :)

Thank you very much!

And speaking of whimsy...
EX1: Dungeonland

Cheers!
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
My mileage varies quite a bit just depending on how I feel! (I do think I have a lot more patience for these tricks in novels, but I enjoy whimsical D&D quite a bit - but in the context of a whimsical adventure, not a serious piece. (snip)

For me, the problem with Hickman's Dragonlance stuff is the mash-up of his pompous moral philosophies with high-level idiocy. It's why R A Salvatore is also jarring: you have the weird emo and angst of his main character clashing with his gungan-inspired dwarves with speech impediments.

Mash-ups can work... but not in the hands of hacks (or George Lucas in the prequels...).

(snip) And speaking of whimsy...
EX1: Dungeonland

Cheers!

Funnily enough, IMO it works here because there's a fundamental consistency.
 

Weather Report

Banned
Banned
For me, the problem with Hickman's Dragonlance stuff is the mash-up of his pompous moral philosophies with high-level idiocy. It's why R A Salvatore is also jarring: you have the weird emo and angst of his main character clashing with his gungan-inspired dwarves with speech impediments.

Mash-ups can work... but not in the hands of hacks (or George Lucas in the prequels...).


And one of the main problems is Lucas is a horrendous director, hence why Empire is considered the best, he treats actors like props, he can get a wooden performance out of anyone, the reason Raiders rocks is due to Lucas producing, and Spielberg directing (someone that actually knows how to get a good performance out of an actor).

Yet, somehow American Graffiti really worked, but I think that's due to the actors being "wired".
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
And for your reading pleasure:
B5: Horror on the Hill

In which Douglas Niles manages to bore/puzzle your correspondent so much he almost can't finish the review.

It actually probably plays a lot better than it reads, but I just can't feel enthusiastic about B5!

Cheers!
 



pemerton

Legend
One of the most ambitious adventures of the classic era, UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave reached my keyboard today. It's a fascinating adventure, made doubly so by having a D&D Encounters season remake to show the strengths and weaknesses of the original adventure!
Thanks, I enjoyed the review. I have a copy of this module but have never run it, and suspect I have not even read it all the way through.

In your review you say, I think correctly, that "the structures known to the designers" weren't up to the demands of this adventure. But I would want to add: I don't think that traditional D&D has action resolution mechanics that are up to those demands either. Without thinking it through fully, it seems like an adventure that would benefit from a skill challenge or Duel of Wits (from Burning Wheel) framework whereby, in the course of negotiation, players can find their PCs burdened with obligations that they are not mechanically free to ignore. And perhaps also from a GUMSHOE-style approach for handing out clues to the mystery.

I also have one quibble. You open by saying "If there is one adventure that really shows what the UK division of TSR were capable of, it is this one." But I think Night's Dark Terror is actually a better candidate for this praise. It's less unorthodox than UK1, but partly for that reason is a better example, I think, of genuinely D&D design that nevertheless is ambitious in its scope and (in my view, at least) successful in its delivery.
 






MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
The Gauntlet was one of the earliest adventures I owned. (Vault of the Drow was first). I didn't find it inspiring back then, and I was puzzled by the set-up and the artwork.

Placing these UK adventures in the World of Greyhawk really feels like a mistake for a lot of them; there's a certain type and level of magical elements in Greyhawk, and many of the UK series aren't of that type. They'd be better served in another world entirely.

Cheers!
 

Placing these UK adventures in the World of Greyhawk really feels like a mistake for a lot of them; there's a certain type and level of magical elements in Greyhawk, and many of the UK series aren't of that type. They'd be better served in another world entirely.

Yeah, though I used UK1 in my Greyhawk campaign back in the day, they didn't really strike me as "Greyhawk material" (not that that really meant anything; I didn't own the World of Greyhawk setting then -- but the Green Man felt out of place). That's in contrast to the L-series, which had strong ties to Greyhawk based on location names and gods.

On the other hand, back then I used Greyhawk and Mystara/Known World adventures (and some with uncertain locations like Ravenloft and the Desert of Desolation) together more or less interchangeably. I feel like setting continuity has become more of a thing since the 2E focus on settings; it was much less present in 1E before Dragonlance.
 



MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
I'm a bit surprised. My group really enjoyed these two adventures. They seemed very fitting for low-level play. Although we were huge fans of the FF (mostly), and even redundant creatures like the xvarts were welcome additions.

My tastes tend towards the more fantastic, it must be admitted.
 

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