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So, what makes 1e adventures so great?


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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Nostalgia.

Being first.

Both of those are strong components to it. I think that certain adventures were also so barebones (see D3: Vault of the Drow) that the ingenuity of the DM and players made them even greater than how they were written.

Being first was important because the adventures really were trailblazing in those days. With many later adventures you could go, "Seen that before". You couldn't during the 1e days.

The 1e adventures also covered a great breadth of situation. For example, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks takes place within a crashed spaceship! Some of the adventures were extremely inventive.

Not all 1e adventures were great, however. In actual fact, there are very few real classics, mostly from the early days. Some are now considered classic simply because they were widely played, not for their intrinsic interest. (A1, A2 and A3, the first three adventures of the Slavelords series, are probably of that calibre. A4, however, is very unusual as you begin as prisoners and deserves its classic status).

Cheers!
 


Psion

Adventurer
MerricB said:
Both of those are strong components to it. I think that certain adventures were also so barebones (see D3: Vault of the Drow) that the ingenuity of the DM and players made them even greater than how they were written.
D3 was my favorite 1e module. I was just about to start a thread pointing out that many of them weren't really anything to write home about, but D3 was an exception, because it is rather open ended.

I guess I just dig products like that, even today. I like products that don't provide you with ground to grow the adventure in and let you play out the details.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
The earliest D&D adventures

Although there were D&D adventures published before the Giants, they did not have a wide enough distribution to really be worth considering except in passing. Members of the Acaeum know more about them than I, in any case (and perhaps Grodog might pass by). The Temple of the Frog (from Supplement II: Blackmoor) is also an oddity that lies outside the normal consideration of adventures.

The First Year: 1978
G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (8 pages)
G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (8 pages)
G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King (16 pages)
D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth (20? pages)
D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (20 pages)
D3: Vault of the Drow (28 pages)
S1: Tomb of Horrors (12 pages + 20 page illustration booklet)
B1: In Search of the Unknown (28 pages)


Seven of the first eight adventures for D&D were written by Gary Gygax, the other (B1) by Mike Carr, and all are remarkable in how brief they are. In truth, G1-3 and D1-3 were all part of the same series (which would be finally completed in 1980 by Q1) and would be collected in later printings.

G1, G2 and G3 are linked by a simple theme: slay the giants. This is an archetypal theme that owes much to Norse mythology, and resonates well. G1 is simple in construct, but as the adventures progressed, Gygax added more challenges and interest to them. New enemies were introduced, terrain features were varied, and the tactics of the giants grew more cunning.

These early adventures required skill from the DM to turn them into more than just hack'n'slash fests, but the material was there. G3 was the most interesting, as it introduced not only the treacherous dwarf Obmi and a strange underground temple, but also one of the signature races of D&D, the Drow.

D1 and D2 began another archetypal quest: Discover the strange things that live beneath the surface of the earth. Where the other modules were somewhat limited in scope, the Descent literally covered miles of what much later became known as the Underdark. Even more than G1-3, these relied on the DM's invention to fill in the blanks. However, the environment presented was vividly described and enough detail was given for the inventive DM to really make them work.

D3, however, being the sixth part of this series, was extremely unusual. Less of an adventure than a description of the destination of the adventurers' pursuit through the Underdark, the Vault of the Drow was a potentially dangerous place full of webs of intrigue. Of all the adventures ever published for D&D, this is the one that requires the most from the DM. It is also one the most influential on the mythology of D&D - both in Greyhawk and in the Forgotten Realms.

G3 (1978) and D3 are the two great classics adventures by Gary Gygax for AD&D. The potential provided by those adventures would not be equalled in his later releases.

S1 is a nonesuch: an adventure designed to kill the PCs of people who think they're better than they are! It is similar to the classic dungeon adventure with one exception: very few monsters and many, many traps. The variance in ways that your PC could die during this adventure makes it deserve its classic status.

B1 is also unusual: it was designed for novice DMs. A backstory was given, and the map was drawn, along with descriptions of some rooms and their special features. However, not everything was filled in! The DM had to stock the rooms with monsters and treasure, as well as other interesting items. This style of dungeon would only be attempted once more, in B3, but that product was withdrawn and rewritten before wide sales, so B1 also stands alone. I don't think that by any measure it can be considered a great adventure, but it was the start for many players.

Cheers!
 
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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
The Second Year: 1979
T1: The Village of Hommlet (24 pages)
B2: The Keep on the Borderlands (32 pages)
S2: White Plume Mountain (16 pages)


Of the modules produced in 1979, B2 would be the most significant to the most players. It was included in the D&D Basic set for many years afterwards, and was designed by Gary Gygax as being a fun way to introduce new players to D&D. It certainly succeeded at that!

By any reckoning, having a set of caves with all these normally feuding monsters living in them peacefully doesn't make a lot of sense. However, it makes for some very enjoyable gaming. There is no plot past "kill the monsters and take their stuff" - although clever DMs could add to the material given here - but for novice players, what fun! Many more experienced players also enjoyed it, it must be said...

T1 is a different kettle of fish. Where B2 gave the very barest of bones of a home base (the Keep), T1 gave much in the way of description of the Village of Hommlet and the intrigues that were taking place there - although not much in the way of actual events that should occur. A nearby dungeon (the Moathouse) was also provided, giving an unusual counterpoint to the balance in B2.

T1 was really the first adventure to promote the setting above the basic adventure. I do not think it was entirely successful: too much was left up to the DM in the way of providing challenges before the moathouse could be successfully attempted. And, unfortunately, the much promised T2, the actual Temple of Elemental Evil, was delayed and delayed.

S2 was the first real "tournament" style module to be published. For the time being, I will ignore two further modules that had limited release this year; I am more interested in the broader release dates. By a "tournament" style of module, I mean a dungeon where a task must be performed, and there are various traps, tricks and monsters in the way. S2 doesn't really make much sense, but it defines an common, early form of D&D adventure.

S2 is fun, but not always well-regarded these days.

Cheers!
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
The Third Year: 1980
C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (32 pages, 8 page illustration book)
C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (20 pages)
Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits (32 pages)
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity (24 page)


If S2 was the first adventure I consider a "tournament module", 1980 would see the release of three explicitly labeled tournament modules: C1, C2 and A1. C1 is distinctive in that it used an Aztec motif, and A1 in that the "against the slavers" theme is somewhat archetypal in nature. However, apart from some inventive encounters, none of these modules really pushed forward the boundaries of module design that had been seen in S2.

In theory, Q1 is the conclusion to the Giants/Drow series. However, it was not written by Gary Gygax. The exact reason for that is not one I am entirely certain of. Was it that Gary was too busy and handed the job off to another designer? Or were the internal tensions at TSR already building and someone else was assigned to it?

Regardless, Q1 is a classic adventure, though it is at odds with what had been seen in the previous adventures in the series. The PCs had to travel to the Abyss and slay a demoness - or goddess, depending on interpretation. The actual adventure could lead on to adventures in a dozen new worlds, and the mechanical spidership of Lolth was extremely unusual.

Cheers!
 
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Crothian

First Post
Creativity. Back then everything hadn't been done yet. Many things that made them good then make them bad now. The gaming landscape hjas changed in the last 20 plus years.
 

Quasqueton

First Post
Isn't it interesting that the first "official" adventures published for D&D were high-level romps? You'd have thought they'd start with low-level stuff.

Quasqueton
 

Bryan898

First Post
Do you remember when Nintendo first came out (or Atari), and the feeling you got playing Mario, Punch Out, Final Fantasy, or Zelda for the first times? Now they don't seem so extraordinary, the concepts are small, the gameplay simplistic, but at the time it was the best thing ever. I still remember how awesome those games were, and still think they were awesome because there was nothing like it at the time. If I found someone who started playing games on the new generation of consoles and had them play the old games, they'd probably think they were dumb. It's almost the same thing here. Nostalgia is great but sucks at the same time because you always want to recreate that original feeling, and that's a very hard thing to do.
 

Tuzenbach

First Post
MerricB said:
This style of dungeon would only be attempted once more, in B3, but that product was withdrawn and rewritten before wide sales

??? What's this???


What's the name of this? Where can I find one? How valuable is it? Do you have one? What's it like? :confused:
 


SWBaxter

First Post
MerricB said:
In theory, Q1 is the conclusion to the Giants/Drow series. However, it was not written by Gary Gygax. The exact reason for that is not one I am entirely certain of. Was it that Gary was too busy and handed the job off to another designer? Or were the internal tensions at TSR already building and someone else was assigned to it?
In the forward to Q1, Gygax said that initially it was delayed due to workload, and then when he went back to work on it he found he'd used a lot of his original ideas in the Temple of Elemental Evil (which presumably was in a more developed state at that point, though I don't think it saw print until a couple of years later). Mike Carr got the nod because he had a fresh approach, and a cool idea for a dungeon layout without any particular project in mind for it... that became the Demonweb.

If it's accurate (and I have no reason to believe Gygax was writing that intro with a gun to his head), then based on how TOEE turned out I'm glad Carr got the nod. The Demonweb is one of the neatest "dungeons" I've seen, while TOEE is a nice big dungeon crawl but not particularly innovative. IMHO, of course.
 

SWBaxter

First Post
MerricB said:
B1 is also unusual: it was designed for novice DMs. A backstory was given, and the map was drawn, along with descriptions of some rooms and their special features. However, not everything was filled in! The DM had to stock the rooms with monsters and treasure, as well as other interesting items. This style of dungeon would only be attempted once more, in B3, but that product was withdrawn and rewritten before wide sales, so B1 also stands alone.
IIRC, the same style was also used in at least one Top Secret adventure, the one that came with the boxed set (Sprechenaltestelle or something like that). Was Rapidstrike done in that format? I can't remember.
 

S'mon

Legend
One thing about old AD&D or BECMI D&D scenarios was that they had tons of stuff - they did in 32 pages what would now be a 128 or 256 page hardback.
 

Erik Mona

Adventurer
I think the near-absence of a "plot" is also a major factor in nostalgia for the "classic" modules. These adventures were not overly concerned about how your PCs got to the front door, or what motivation they might have for barging in and stealing a bunch of treasure. Most of the adventures dealt with player motivation in a single paragraph of boxed text or not at all.

This resulted in a game experience consisting almost entirely of moving figures on a map and fighting dangerous beasts (or doing the same in your head). That means that from start to finish, you're actually _playing Dungeons & Dragons_, as opposed to sitting around and talking about what kind of outfit your guy is wearing or haggling over equipment prices with an NPC.

That's not to say that a less action-oriented game is inferior, or that some people played a more minutia-obsessed game in the olden days, but I do believe, in general, the ratio of time spent dinking around to time spent rolling dice was much more in favor of game play in the olden days than it was in, say, the late 1980s or early 1990s, where a good official Dungeons & Dragons adventure was as hard to come by as a Gary Gygax editorial in Dragon magazine.

--Erik Mona
Editor-in-Chief
Dragon & Dungeon
 

Celebrim

Legend
Terseness: The old modules could pack A LOT of gaming into just a few pages. Take B2: Keep on the Borderlands. This module easily packs 32+ hours of gaming into as many pages. The module may seem thematically simple, but it had alot of different monsters in it, a variaty of traps, and treasures hidden in almost every way imaginable. It chiefly suffers from a poorly designed map IMO, but remapped with a more classic approach and with a decent DM setting up the struggle between the keep's defenders and the insidious evil cult of chaos I dare say it would stand up to much of what is published today.

That last point is critical to understanding why the old modules are so popular. Alot of stuff necessary for a good module has been left out of virtually all the old classics. It's entirely up to the DM to add the missing material and flesh the adventure out. It's precisely because we've seen them run in thier proper glory that we think well of the old modules.

Purity: Until recently, the quality of the old modules as pure dungeon crawls had not been equaled. It isn't until you get modules like RttToEE and Sunless Citadel and HoNS that you really start to see the art of the dungeon matching the early dungeons in sheer quality of design. There is something very compelling about classic dungeon crawling that seemed to have been lost for a long period in D&D. I can tell almost immediately whether a player learned his dungeon crawling skills in the old school dungeons. The old school players have a lot more faith in the power of 10' poles, long lengths of rope, bottles of whiskey, flasks of oil, torches, iron spikes, chalk and the like than modern players. The old school players are far more methodical in play. Newer players generally have bad 'dungeon hygene', are inappropriately incautious opening doors, and tend to think searching a room thuroughly involves only throwing a d20.

Map Quality: I complained about B2's low quality map design, but in many cases the map design of the early modules have never been equaled. C1 'Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan' is brilliant. S1 is a masterpeice of sparse design. Very little is wasted and though the module is actually highly linear, it never feels linear. U1 is awesome in conveying story through location, and until 'Sunless Citadel' was probably the definitive introductory D&D module. The real classics though are I3, I4, I5, and I6. Simply put, the map design for I6: Ravenloft has never been equalled. In terms of use of space, Castle Ravenloft is the best designed dungeon in the history of the game. The Pyramid in I3 is a close second. There are some equally well done and equally inventive 3D maps in the Dragon Lance modules, but they lack the terseness of I3 and I6. They have far too much blank and redundant space.

Scope: The early modules really felt like massive adventures. When you were done with them, you felt you'd accomplished alot. Your typical modern 16 page or 32 page adventure feels like a television episode in an action adventure series. It's by comparison breezier, quicker, and more episodic than an old school module. The 'Tomb of Horrors' only has 32 small locations, but when you first journey into its depths it seems frightenly enormous.
 
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Telas

Explorer
Well, how do I follow a post by Erik Mona....

Poorly, I guess. :heh:

I first played D&D in 1979. Novelty was a big part of the early modules, but there were some other elements as well. As Erik mentioned, a lot of time was spent playing the game, not arguing tactics, looking up spells, or trying to manipulate the rules.

For an exellent early adventure, I recommend U1, The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. The "haunted house" has never failed to entertain a party of any generation of gamers.

A HUGE advantage of the old modules is that most of the "modern" players never saw them. You could probably kill off the vast majority of current D&Ders with S1, The Tomb of Horrors.

Or an Explosion Dog (sorry, Erik).

Telas
 

Hi, all!

Here's my 2cp on this: the difference between older modules and more modern adventures is kind of like the difference between a Robert E. Howard short story and a Robert Jordan novel. That is, the older adventures had just enough detail to create a feel, but mostly had plenty of action. Also, with only a couple of exceptions, they were short. The modern adventure, on the other hand, is packed with tons of detail, plot, and lengthy character development of NPCs. And are MUCH longer.

Please note: I am NOT making a judgement about which is "better". Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

Thanks for listening.
 

Patman21967

First Post
Erik,
Started Maure Castle as a side game tonight, when all my players can't be there for the main game. It was a meat-grinder. After waking up the Horrible Iron Golem, 2 died and the other 2 went running like prepubescent girls. The look on ones face when he said 14 points of damage, I said bounce, he said, " but my weapn is admantine " I said DR 15/- he said " I run"

Maure castle in Dungeon is a good example of a early edition mod.

For my money though, you cannot beat the "old" Judges Guild stuff...Treasure Vaults of Lindoran, Fortress Badabaskor, the Portals series, Hellpits of Nightfang, Tegel Manor. they were great. I have so much stuff from the late 70's and 80's, I have most packed away.
 

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