Monday, June 13, 2011

Challenge!!! Review This Non-Existent Module

I traveled to an alternate universe and, naturally, the first thing I did was hit up some used game stores. Disappointingly, there were only 2 differences between this alternate universe and our own:

1-There was a D&D module there that doesn't exist in this reality.

2-Instead of being used for the cover of a well-known classic metal album, the illustration above was used for the cover of that D&D module. (And, having perused it, I'll say the choice was both appropriate and eloquent.)


Your turn: Tell us the name of this module and tell us what it was like running it and/or reading it.

48 comments:

  1. Title: "The Horror Beneath"

    I ran this for my group this winter. We used the pre-gens that came with the module, which had some decent gear and good back-stories. The elf wizard with bipolar disorder and the effects chart was particularly challenging.

    Losing half the party at the first encounter with the chaos beasts was a hard start to the game. I suppose that's why they included the pool in the temple of melted flesh that resurrects characters with a random physical deformity. It really gets players into the mood of the module.

    We weren't able to finish the game, as we only played one session. Two characters were lost fighting the bone suckers (nasty attack, removing the bones from their pinned victims in 1d4 rounds) and the others fled the dungeon after the razored harbinger in the iron sepulcher decapitated the fighter with his bare hands.

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  2. "ZS: Blasphemous Sanctum of the Overbrain"

    Last in the infamous "Kiss of the Oozing God" trilogy (written by Gygax at the height of his Hollywood "Coke Years"), this climactic installment finds the intrepid adventures (many driven insane in previous adventures) venturing at last into the horrific lair of the Overbrain itself.

    The module is notable for being the first appearance of everyone's favorite mind-eating giant bug with suggestive glowing proboscis, The Liquifier.

    The alternate-reality players had a blast, traversing the Escheresque Maze of Debilitating Tiny Razors with some difficulty, facing off against the multi-limbed Obsidian Mistress with her necklace of dessicated human phalli, and fending off swarms of mewling, baby-faced Sagging Lurchers before finally making their way to the Blasphemous Sanctum itself.

    TPK.

    It was awesome.

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  3. Levels 5-10? I've played "Crypt of the Crab King" and it is a total murder fest if you aren't levels 11-15.

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  4. Module Title: "The Evil that Men Do!"

    A complex and intriguing module about the machinations of a deranged cult of demon-worshippers, who kidnapped local townsfolk for their depraved and savage 'experiments'.

    A module heavy on role-play and political intrigue, dealing with the cult and the influence they had over the leaders of the town.

    My players, however, simply went on a killing spree and slaughtered every leader, until they learnt where the cult was based. Then they hired a dozen mercenaries and cut-throats, and stormed the cultists' lair, killing minion after minion, until they found the laboratory where the victims were housed: mutated humans and elves, watched by a demon that resembled the creature on the front of the cover.

    By killing everyone they missed the important clues and magical sword that would allow them to slay the demon, and ended up being ripped apart by the mutants and their demonic watcher.

    In the end, all but a single mercenary were slain; and he was captured and turned into a mutant.

    Nice game. Players loved it.

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  5. @deinol

    oh you gots'ta give us more than that

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  6. Either " The Temple of Madness" or " The Whispering Darkness" . And if you go with crypt of the crab king it should be followed up with the "Crab Kings' Daughter ".

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  7. The Black Reservoir (EX3), Gary's next release from his Castle Greyhawk notes after the Alice in Wonderland levels. Cover by Otus of course.

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  8. Few modules feature an intro that is brief and good; this is one of them.

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  9. Escape from Proplekvagasim

    This was a disturbing adventure. It is not often that the players find themselves captured - this did occur at the beginning of A4 - and magically inserted into a demonic prison. This prison being the nervous system of an avatar of Jubilex locked in its own pocket dimension.

    The players begin in a shifting world of malleable flesh and dreams. In the lower extremities of the avatar prison they confront the Demon Lord's chaotic urges. Sadistic pleasure, vile ejaculates, viral infections and zygothic dismemberment assail the heroes. Those that fail face a fate worse than death. The flesh walls absorb and recreate them as placentannihilates - mindless battle thralls of the formless.

    Ascending the neuroladereth into the hearts of the formless lord, the heroes face the factions of the Vascularan city states. The zealous sanguinates, the covetous phlegathans, The vapid melanghols and the vile cholericians.

    Traversing the Esophaplagian marches to the Rotting Teeth of Rawlgurex the prize is now in site for the heroes. The assualt upon the Neurolimbasilica home of the Neuralexians the guardians of the sphincter of change.

    Needless to say this is one fucked up journey. Players transmorphing into spasming ganglia of eroprogeny or having their limbic systems liquefied into a spirit sipped by priests of the Zoaplasty is just unsettling.

    The adventure has many opportunities for conflict, however wise players quickly learn how dangerous confronting the spwan of the pseudo reality is and must be far more devious and cautious less they become part of Jubliex.

    Having to eat their way out of the Narthex of Serrated Togngues was certainly an encounter the players will never forget.

    This adventure is not for the faint of heart, and a steal for $6.00.

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  10. That's the official TSR release of Tom Moldvay's Seren Ironhand. In that alternate universe 25,000 of them were printed, so I can get myself a copy there without paying out the nose. I was a little underwhelmed reading it, given the level of hype. But the run ended in a TPK when the players mistook undead Fatty Arbuckle for the big bad, so I definitely got my money's worth. Too bad none of my players are speaking to me now.

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  11. The Menhirs of Weeping alone probably absorbed more adventurers than any single trap in the Tomb of Horrors. We barely got to it (or got out, the elf magic-user was a little too curious and ended up taking more of the hirelings with her) before the DM sprung the plot twist on us super-early, though. He also insisted the leader of the Crab-Lord expedition was played by Kelsey Grammar, for obvious reasons.

    The defenestration puzzle lady was pretty cool though.

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  12. This is module TM1 - The Bedlam Tome.

    The Bedlam Tome is a powerful artifact, which was originally designed to "overwrite" a probable universe, with the information from another one.

    The Tome is non-physical, existing only as an idea. It will hitch a ride into a new reality, usually via the imagination of a traveler between the worlds, symbolized as a book of some sort.

    The traveler, thinking the "idea" his own will feel subtly compelled to write-down information, detailing a new version of his reality and may even be subtly influenced to compel others, to do likewise.

    As the alternate information is written down (and means other than just the written word, such as pictures, may be utilized) the Tome will begin to alter the reality of its current universe, to match the new information.

    Alas, an error in the item's creation, always leads to a breaking-down of the reality, into sheer bedlam. Clues to this effect, will appear from the beginning, in the information the scribe(s) convey.

    The cover of the module is a symbolic representation of the state a universe will find itself in, not too long after the Tome arrives.

    The party must find the scribe(s) copying out the false information, before their universe collapses into utter chaos.

    I never ran this module and strangely, can't recall where I first ran across it.

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  13. @James
    Tlon? nice work

    @anathematician

    love your made up words

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  14. @Zak - Just looked up Tlon on Wikipedia. I must obtain it now. :)

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  15. Alone in the Blasted Lands
    This module was one of the strangest and most exciting to come out of TSR. In “Lords of the Blasted Lands” the players take on a on the Cult of the Unspeakable Mawdrookothorp. The adventure, originally a tournament module, begins with the players, all victims of the intrigues of a corrupt court, being banished into the Blasted Lands for their crimes, both real and contrived. Despite the somewhat heavy handed start, the module, expanded from its tournament form, includes a two page hex-crawl map of the Blasted Lands suitable for sand-box play. So deadly are the Blasted Lands that the motley group of adventurers have no choice but to band together or perish in these tainted lands where the very landscape is at times actively trying to kill them. The highlight of the adventure is the small but multi-layered lair of cult. Built by mad wizard Zanaxithi and still haunted by his fleshless dismembered corpse the lair is labyrinthine nightmare of traps and deadly encounters built to challenge even the most experienced of adventuring parties.

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  16. @james

    i'm kinda impressed you wrote that without knowing Borges. Anyway, a lot of his stories are on-line. I envy you if you're about to read them for the first time.

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  17. Title: The howling city.
    I played an halfelf fighter for this adventure. We had a great time hunting Dragonbirds in the borderlands at the edge of the known world. Then we stumble over this old dwarf wizzard. Lots of ranting on horror and gold. Lets find this "city of doom" or whatever, we said... Demonic squid teleporting inside your brain, undead Kobolds by the millions, madness inducing starpatterns in the sky, spells turning into NPCs (I fondly remember Angus Frenzy, the former chain lightning.). We had a blast.

    But when the city turned out to be made of dead adventurers, and when the siamese lich overlord turned out to be a Doppelganger, the stakes went up quite a bit.

    And then our DM left town. I have always wondered what was in the "temple of eyes", how we were supposed to beat the Fleshwolf packs (they came out of your body!) and what the phrase "the stars are teeth" means.

    Not the best at English.

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  18. @mattias

    some of the best english i've seen all week

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  19. @Zak S

    Still monday in the U.S I guess...
    Btw. Thanks for Vornheim. My players are so confused right now.

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  20. The Bad Home Renovation!

    Carl the Wizard conjures imps to reno his home while he goes to Mexico. On return he's horrified by the job the imps did. Kill the imps, renovate the house! the time for adventure is now. Made for 4-8 characters, level 5-10.

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  21. OMG, S6: Isle In The Crypt was a bland booklet in the "S" series. It was surprisingly short, with some NPCs that could have the potential to be non-disposable characters - they are too one-sided and adamant to go beyond their role as roadblocks for the PCs to kill. Much of the monsters are your run-of-the-mill MM types, with only one new creature - the funny maned abomination you face at the end (thankfully, its name never comes up in the adventure, as I'm hard-press to pronounce it, but this might not be a bad thing).

    Much of the book was given to the illos - even the prefab PCs are each given half a page of art (their stats on the reverse). As cool as the art is - with a mix of DCS, Trampier, and Otus - they had to illustrate every damn thing you'll find or encounter! OH, WHOOP-DO-DO! YOU SEE A PILE OF GOLD WITH A GLEAMING SWORD! ITS A DOG-FACED HUMANOID!!! WHAT COULD THAT BE?!? The problem with this, is that much of what they illustrate is so obvious, you could more then easily give a verbal description, and that the fancy flash-cards tend to ruin the surprise, as they tend to give-out really obvious clues to traps, magic items, and that lurks behind corners and such. They wasted Otus talent on some mundane items, where his unique style could have been better used to highlight some of the more freakier elements, like the Hall of Living Flesh, the Chamber of Madness, and the abomination on the isle. If they had removed some of the redundant pics, they could have more room for a larger dungeon. One of my pet-peeves with the art and themes at the time, was how they where overly modest and politically correct. The Succubus looked funny in that swimsuit, and the so called "servant-girl" who was described as being undressed, but looked radically different in that tattered dress and iron chains.

    All-and-all, its a good module, but it tried to be a little too "artful". All the NPCs - even the "servant-girl" that is totally not a slave - are combatants, without any effort to make them at all useful at driving the plot or a side-story. And at the end, you find that underground isle, but it was such a big let-down, its not even worth bothering to to get into.

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  22. @Zak - I have a huge bank of science fiction, fantasy, esoterica, weird science and my own far out gedankenexperiments to draw upon. :)

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  23. From the looks of it, "twice the artwork" is going to mean "double the SAN loss"...

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  24. "Perdition's Throne", managed to overreach and fail to meet it's potential at the same time. While there are some delightfully lurid and challenging encounters in the main the range of encounters is still limited for the promise the introduction and background provide. This baby should have gotten at least half again as many pages. An experienced DM could definitely stretch this out to get a more oomph out of the material using the module as a core of a broader adventure. Was there ever a follow-up or prequel published?

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  25. @ mattias

    and what the phrase "the stars are teeth" means.
    The implication is that the stars are all incarnate gods of Law, invading the universe for the ultimate goal of destroying it (that's why the reskinned Norse stuff is there through the A-series. Skoll the sun-eater was supposed be fighting on the side of freedom and Chaos). I've heard that this was supposed to tie into the succeeding modules (specifically the star-born vampire in the devil's throne room in A6) but by then the editorial rewrites threw in more shiny knights and less crustacean technology.

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  26. Oh, this brings back memories. I picked up a copy of this at GenCon a couple years back. This is a copy from the second print run, I think dated '84, of LV1, "The Leviathan's Spawn". (The first print run had a pale yellow cover, black and white Otus art, with the older TSR logo.) This was a very short print run, recalled shortly after the Chaosium Lovecraft lawsuit, so the fact that you found a copy is pretty surprising.

    I ran this for my players last year after I found it, dug up my old rules just for it, and it helped that I had a copy of the first run of Deities and Demigods, as it references a few things from it. I can't believe we survived this module when I was a player in highschool, because as a DM I realize now just how gonzo the whole damn thing is. Where to start?

    Ok, the maps are the old style of non-photocopy blue, but it's the best effort to make a non-Euclidean map that I've ever seen. Rooms connected by dotted lines, one way hallways, even one passage in magic darkness that leads to 2 different rooms depending on which wall the characters are clinging to. I missed that one in highschool because all our characters used our right hand, but this time I split the party and killed half with the "maw of eternal gnashing" that's in the room on the left.

    The spells and magic items are some of the strangest you'll find in a 1e module, ranging from "Glabrous Distortion" and "Shrieking Prayer to the Outer Dark" to the cursed plate mail of etherealness and gloves of festering sores. The real treasure for players and DMs alike was the 6 page expansion on psionics containing rules I haven't seen anywhere else, including an artifact that can reshape characters into damn near anything with the right saves. Of course, as with anything 1e and psionic, it was more often useless and/or fatal.

    As with many of the modules from that era, there's very little effort at a plot, no allies to be found, cursed crap all over the place, and while there's one big baddy at the end that's beatable with some serious luck (use the artifact and roll 00, basically), there's no real closure to it. When it's over, it's just done, with no effort at all made to reconcile the aftermath with a larger campaign. As such, I cannot recommend this for anything other than a one-shot, because players are going to either lose their favorite character to it, or they'll come out with items and abilities that will seriously screw up your campaign if you don't have plans for it already.

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  27. "White Plume Mountain 2: The Indoctrination Level"

    Complete with fucked-up version of the giant crab from the original S2, I just wonder if they really added twice the art!

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  28. PART I

    It's only by a strange twist of fate that we have Cory Seward's flawed classic "C2: Citadel of Nightmare" at all. The original tournament
    module for Wintercon VIII (Detroit, 1979) was to have been an Allen Hammack piece, "The Ghost Tower of Inverness," but Hammack was injured in a car wreck on his way to Wintercon, and Seward stepped up to the plate. (Judges' Guild later released "Ghost Tower"; it is usually available reasonably cheaply on eBay.)

    Seward ran an unbelievable ten sessions of his module that weekend; Tom Moldavy played in one, and was impressed enough that he recommended it for purchase. The first edition (light green cover with David Sutherland art) was published by TSR in 1980; the better-known orange Whelan cover is the 1982 second edition.

    Structurally, C2 s clearly a tournament module of its time: it's designed for a two-and-a-half hour session, and contains (like C1) a scoring key. In many ways it seems like a close cousin of C1: to modern players it seems implausible that any group of adventurers could finish in the allotted time, the action often seems arbitrary and unfair, the module is very deadly even by the standards of 1979, and where C1 has a Mesoamerican theme, C2 is distinguished by its Lovecraftian tropes (although it draws heavily not merely from Lovecraft but from August Derleth and Lin Carter as well).

    It is somewhat baffling to modern readers just why this module was so highly regarded. By all accounts it was a smash hit at Wintercon, but it has not held up well as a playable experience (although there are some notable innovations that make it a worthwhile historical read; more below). A great deal of this is no doubt attributable to the fact that all sessions of the Wintercon game were run by the author. That brings us to the greatest failing of the module. The symbolism is completely opaque, and although it is quite clear that the author was trying to evoke *something*, it's not at all obvious what. Seward is hunting for a Weird Fantasy spooky-horrific vibe, but the effect for anyone not privy to his own internal vision is that of disjointed psychedelia. Rather than beguiling surrealism, we are left instead with the impression of incoherent hallucination.

    This is particularly evident in the module's heavy reliance on ridiculously-overpowered monsters with very specific weaknesses. Although these weaknesses are cued within the module, it seem incredible that any group of players would, for instance, realize that luring the Everter into a Bag of Holding was the easy way to kill it.

    For the most part the new monsters are quite creative (although heavy on the gratuitous gross-out, and light on the actually-creepy); whether or not they're anything you'd actually use in another game may be another matter.

    There are also far too many puzzles which would be logic puzzles, but which rely on what one might charitably call dream-logic, and uncharitably call bullshit. These puzzles often rely on egregious puns--guessing that the minotaur can be immobilized by throwing the slightly ripped drapery atop it, because "minotaur" equals "mini-tore" ? Really? Did anyone *ever* think this was good game design?

    Still, I hesitate to judge this game too harshly. There are ways in which it really was groundbreaking. It did horror-in-D-and-D long before Ravenloft, and like Ravenloft, it had a breathtakingly ambitious map. Indeed, it tries the same trick as the Demonweb in Q1, in that it exists in more than three dimensions, extending, in this case, into Cyclopean, non-Euclidean spaces. Unfortunately, the printed map is a muddled, confusing mess of TSR Blue. However, there are latter-day reconstructed maps for C2 easily Googleable, which make the rooms' bizarre interconnections much clearer.

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  29. PART II

    This is the second edition with "Twice as Much Artwork!" That's true, I suppose. The Whelan cover is of course spectacular, but as for the interior artwork, well, although the page count was padded to 32 from 24, there was a lot lost as well. The second edition contains quite a bit of Otus, unsurprisingly. Alas, it's essentially the set of pieces that didn't make the cut for the Cthulhu Mythos in _Deities and Demigods_. And there are some true gems in the first edition that were cut from the second edition. Sure, the Trampier illustrations of the Everter and the slimehoppers are minor Trampier, but they were never reprinted anywhere else I'm aware of. The little Tom Wham eyestalks decorating the margins were a cute touch, gone in the second edition. And then there's the melancholy succubus. The illustration in the first edition is one of the best of Jean Wells' pieces anywhere. It's delicate, haunting, and so very, very hot. The Willingham picked to replace it is frankly a baffling choice: while I'll grant that TSR in 1982 might have needed to cover nipples it could show in 1980, the succubus really didn't need pecs.

    Most of the additional illustrations are overly-literal Larry Elmore pieces, with a couple of forgettable Roslofs thrown in for good measure. Although it's completely tonally inappropriate, the Holloway picture of the adventuring party trying to escape from/negotiate with the Insatiable Maw is one of his funniest pieces.

    There were a few extremely interesting game mechanics introduced in C2.

    One was that each player in a tournament setting started with three characters; according to the reports from Wintercon, only one player finished the session with more than one, and there were two total party kills (yes, that means twenty-four character deaths inside of two-and-a-half hours. Twice)--and it was still the life of the party.

    The most notable new mechanic, though, was that once inside the Asylum at the core of the Citadel, _Wish_ was a second-level spell. Literally. Any character who said "I wish..." and had an unused second level spell would have that slot (randomly determined, if he had more than one such slot) used, and would forthwith have that wish executed. If players come to this module without foreknowledge, this can be very amusing. And it's explicitly stated that NPCs can use this mechanic too, although it is also pointed out that they may not make what the players would find to be rational decisions.

    The other odd mechanical details deal, for the most part, with the final part of this review. We're about to take a hard left turn here, so bear with me.

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  30. PART III

    It wasn't obvious to me when I first encountered this module as an adolescent, but in addition to being a piece of Classic TSR, this module is clearly some sort of Art Therapy. Indeed, it's so clearly such a thing that it makes you wonder whether Gygax and TSR were unbelievably callously exploitative, or ridiculously blind to what they were reading.

    It's not spoiling too much to reveal that the core of the Citadel is the Asylum, and that the chief villain of the piece is to be found within. And, while the module tries really hard to stick to the D&D narrative of peeling-back-the-onion-layers-to-get-to-the-bad-guy-at-the-center, bits of the author's own narrative keep jabbing through.

    To wit: isn't it a little heartbreaking, when you stop and think about it, that Seward points out that if you _Shocking Grasp_ someone's head, in addition to taking damage, they lose 2 points of INT, but gain a +4 to all saving throws related to the Asylum's inhabitants and effects?

    Didn't anyone at TSR notice the bizarre half-page rant (p.11) against the DMG Insanity Tables and their lack of realism? Or that "Enizaroht" is "Thorazine" spelled backwards, and that ingesting it gives you the same +4 to saves, -1 INT, and -1 CHA, with symptoms (facial tics, grunting, tongue protrusion) that are clearly tardive dyskinesia?

    But apparently no one at TSR noticed this, or if they did, they just didn't care. And who knows? Maybe having this published did offer some kind of catharsis to Cory Seward; he never seems to have done anything else in the RPG world.

    Anyway, it's an interesting game, even if the creepiness comes from the circumstances of the author rather than the mood he tried, and failed, to evoke. Plus the cover art's good. It's certainly worth reading, even if it's no longer worth playing.

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  31. @deinol

    Look, "Crypt of the Crab King" is perfectly reasonable for levels 5-10 so long as your players track down at least three quarters of the help they can get in the first level of the pre-dungeon Mausoleum. Sure, it's a little tight in just how much demon-hob-nobbing you have to do to really get "in", as it were, but that's half the charm.

    The above said, I did think that the Crab King itself was really a bit of a let down. There isn't really any way, as written, to not have it devolve into a knock-down, drag out fight. I mean, c'mon, "The Crab King has planned to long for this very moment. He can not be reasoned with, and will *redacted for spoilers*"? Really? That just smacks of snoozer denouement.

    Bleh, 4 out of 5 if you ignore the CK itself. 2 and a half if you play it out as is. Oh, and deinol, get more proactive players. Seriously.

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  32. LG2 – Return of the Living God

    Second instalment in the infamous LG series. Unlike LG1, this module only ever got a very short run and was recalled shortly after release. Until I found this copy, I wasn't aware a second edition had ever been published. The changes, I found, were disappointing (but more on that later).

    It's hard to believe this module is from the same author as Cult of the Living God. In the face of its reputation, and the moral panic surrounding the time of its release, I found LG1 to be startling in its banality. The supposed “indecencies” are really quite feeble, barely noticeable to anyone but the most upright of moral guardians. The characters are well-written but uninteresting. The dungeon itself consists largely of near-identical empty rooms, repeated endlessly (literally). There was no real end to the module, the players just wander around until they get bored and leave.

    Return of the Living God, by contrast, I would rank among my all-time favourite modules. The writing is great, managing to convey the just right note of eeriness to the DM that should be transmitted to the players. The NPCs of LG1 make their return, but they reveal new hidden depths. Some of the incongruities from LG1 have been expanded into character traits so fitting and so deliciously creepy that I have to assume that was the intention from the start. The labyrinth is back, too, but of course it's shifted yet again. Suffice it to say, the new configuration is a lot more interesting than the last.

    I lost my copy of LG2 in a house fire some years ago, so I was pleased to find this version. As mentioned, this is from some mysterious second print run, apparently made after the original version was recalled. The changes are generally for the worse. The blurb boasts “twice the artwork!”, and that's technically true. The lovingly drawn Erol Otus illustrations of the original are gone, replaced by an uncredited artist who seems to have a peculiar hatred of the human face. Even the most innocuous of scenes are made repulsive and unsettling, with scratchy ink shadows in all the wrong places. The “monsters” (spoilers) are barely illustrated at all.
    Unusually, a lot of heavy changes seem to have been made to the text, often without rhyme or reason. The entire layout of the labyrinth seems to have been reordered – which doesn't do any harm, but what was the point? Some of the room descriptions are just weird sentence fragments, sometimes repeated several times. I'm not sure if these are misprints or not - they still work as descriptions, more or less, they're just kind of bizarre. Some of the other rooms seem to have been rewritten too, but without my original copy it's hard to say just what.

    The original edition ended with the players about to enter the Caves of the Mouth. After LG2 the series got discontinued, so that was the end of it. The second edition version ends at the same place, but the Mouth gets built up throughout the whole dungeon with cryptic hints, and when they do enter it seems a lot more final. I guess that must be an attempt to make up for LG3 never being released, but it's not much of a note to end a campaign on.

    The first edition of this module I would have given a 5/5. With the changes, I give it a 4. It's still a good module, it's still wildly original, but some parts of it just make no sense. I've never actually run this in a game myself, but it's intriguing enough just to read through. Check it out.

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  33. mmm, I see, Y3: "Masters of Pit".
    I don't have a very fond memories of that one, but it may be due to translations issues. Back in the 80s the Y Series achieved a cult status in Spain, and the three modules were translated and distributed by fans. Aside from the more-than-cuestionable quality of the copies, I always suspected that the translators put a lot of their own in it: I don't know if you english-speaking people ever met the Matador Golem in the Gorgon's Arena or the centipede-wagons of the Chitin Gypsies (wilderness encounter #13).
    The entire module was a lot of silly, in a creepy manner. You know, a place named "the underbelly of reality" (The title's Pit) it's no meant to be a nice place but c'mon, the Living Palace, the Aborted Gods and the Brides of Carrion were just disturbing.
    Y3 has some redeeming things, of course, like the tarot-traps or the demented elvish pirates. But my group always feel it was a disappointing ending of a great series: we totally love the gritty, medieval feel of Y1: "Ratking", and have a blast (and a TPK) in Y2: "The city at the world's end". Y3 was just bland compared with such illustrious predecessors.

    PS: If you do come back to that alternate universe pick a copy of the 1st ed "Middle Earth Campaing Setting" boxed set for AD&D (1981) or the hardcover "Advanced Swords & Glory: adventures in Tékumel" by Gygax and Barker (1979). You'll thank me.

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  34. Sojourn into the Kingdom of Karkanth
    I ran this with my group a few years back, having found it mixed into a pile of other old D&D stuff my brother and his friends left in the attic after they'd outgrown things. It was the first time I ran a module, and we used pre-existing characters from the campaign--stupidly, I thought "levels 5-10" meant a party of 5 5th-6th level PCs would be fine. I had to fudge a few things to prevent an early random encounter with weresaurs from becoming a TPK, and thereafter I toned a lot of monsters down to make things a bit more palatable.

    Beyond that, there were two great moments in the campaign for the players. The first was when the decided to "free" the flame maiden from the lichkeep, by casting Create Water on her; the odd excitement they got from killing a powerful creature so easily gave way to confusion and panic as they realized the lichkeep wasn't for a lich, it was a lich.

    The other was when they found out the king they'd saved from an evil impostor was also evil himself, and the whole thing had been engineered by his evil sword.

    The denouement was a little cliche in a Tolkienesque destroy-the-artifact-kill-the-bad-guy kind of way, but the setting really had an impact on the players. For a while they talked about what going back there to explore, but the terror and weirdness of the place kept them from finding out what was in the books of the Library of Night, taming a polyhorse, or retrieving the rest of the Lightning Diamonds.

    A for environment, C for story. Would have been a lot better as a sourcebook than an adventure, I think.

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  35. "Desperate Cry of an Infected Voice" - A Mutant Future Module

    The last remnants of humanity is "Under Siege" by "Dead Embryonic Cells" in an "Altered State" that "Arise" to "Murder" the last of the human civilizations. "Meaningless Movements" against the mutant cells have had no effect, in a last ditch effort the warlord of the last human city, Baron "Orgazmatron" let's loose his "C.I.U. (Criminals In Uniform)" to stop the assault. Meanwhile a mysterious speed metal band called Sepultura are seen from the mutant wastes thrashing amongst the inhabitants. Is there a connection?

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  36. I think I will make a podcast review of this thing and I shall be very, very silly.

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  37. PART I

    Wow. They don't make them like this anymore...or ever.

    Module X2: "Don't Look, Just Run!"

    Viewed in its home alternate universe as the final nail in the coffin of TSR as a company. The adventure is surprisingly adult, containing all manners of filth and debauchery other things not rated PG-13. It sparked many a moral outcry and is still on many 'burn on sight' lists.

    Naturally the module sold roughly 23,000,000 copies worldwide. The module begins with players waking up in a dungeon, imprisoned. The dungeon is revealed to be an enormous prison where offenders are tossed in, left to die. Hazy on the details of previous night, they can either make up a backstory explanation for why they're now in jail (y'know, if they're boring) or they can roll on the provided d20 chart:

    'd20 Random Imprisonment Reasons' chart:

    1. Caught selling an illegal narcotic substance without sharing with the captain of the guard.
    2. Caught wearing provocative clothing in a 'subdued vestments' district of town.
    3. Murdered the Queen. PC has no memory of the event, but was covered in her blood.
    4. Killed a brigand in a duel. Brigand revealed to be a Duke's son.
    5. Charged with public indecency and lewd behavior on a Sunday (Behavior is player's choice).
    6. Caught carrying illegal magical components through town.
    7. Caught selling/bartering illegal magical components in town.
    8. Caught ingesting illegal magical components in town (and not sharing).
    9. Found 'deflowering' the Prince/Princess (or both) the day before their wedding.
    10. Jaywalking.
    11. Theft of d10x100 gold pieces.
    12. Theft of d10x100 gold pieces worth of clothing/jewelry/trinkets.
    13. PC's pet/animal companion attacks a magistrate (if the PC doesn't have an animal companion, it only adds to the confusion).
    14. Caught seducing an initiate to the Temple of Chastity (in your defense, he was really cute)
    15. Murdered an evil wizard who wronged you. Turns out he's related to the Queen.
    16. Cleared out a dungeon for the local temple. Thrown in jail to keep silent about what you found there.
    17. Learned the unspeakable truth/meaning behind the Queen's secret tattoo.
    18. You belong to a race that the town is prejudiced against.
    19. You have no memory of what you might have done. You smell of expensive perfume and shame.
    20. You remember EXACTLY what you did, but it is too horrible to reveal.

    Once the memories of the players began to return, they were left to explore "Don't Look, Just Run!"s mega-dungeon. (Here on abbreviated to DLJR).

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  38. PART II

    This module is truly a fun dungeon romp, with a near perfect balance of mind-searing monster battles, stupidity triggered traps and puzzles, and sexual dalliances with beautiful beings from realms of pure horror.

    It's at its best when the players don't take it too seriously, springing the occasional trap and making a few dumb decisions for fun. It's a great adventure for newer players who're looking for a weird and crunchy-fun game. If you're a super-serious 'delta-force' style player, you may not have as much fun...

    ...also, you may be devoured by the Krakthorian She-Beast of the Nine Depths, endlessly digested within her gullet while listening to a symphony of splendor emitted from her mind.

    For a DM, 'DLJR' is really a blast. Because so much of the trap effects and monsters rely on random dice-rolls and consulting charts, the adventure has a very random feel to it. It can be run over and over, and no two play-throughs will be alike.

    Finally, when the players encounter the 'hypnotic living mass' (now just known as a HLM) it's fun to see if they follow the simple instructions on the Module cover. It isn't kidding when it says 'Don't Look, Just Run!'

    If they don't, at least the d100 death chart makes sure that they die splendiforously. With awesome deaths like:

    -You become delicious. Save or spend eternity deliciously eating yourself to death.
    -The HLM's spawn devour your brain and use your body as a meat puppet. Said puppet escapes and becomes a world famous adventurer.
    -You get smushed.

    If you can cross into an alternate universe, pick yourself up a copy. Over there, the Module is now considered boring and cliche, so they're pretty cheap. You won't regret it.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/ScaryHairStudios

    PS: Oh, SPOILER, turns out the hideous crab beast on the Module's cover is just a painting hanging on the dungeon wall. That kinda sucks.

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  39. It might interest you to know that this was published in this universe, but never in English; I had it described to me at a con in Stuttgart a few years ago by a German gamer who referred to it as “The Unspoken Cult”, but English wasn't his first language so I'm not sure whether its here being called “The Cult of the Unspoken Word” is an issue arising from translation or minorly divergent realities.

    Either way it's a surprise to see it (re)surface here. Reading it through tallies with the description I was given in Stuttgart; the overwhelming impression is of an adventure written by a writer rather than a gamer, with all the good and bad things that implies, though there seems no indication anywhere in the book or elsewhere as to the pseudonymous author's actual name. The story I was told in Stuttgart claimed it was a major literary fiction writer of the late 20th C who did not want his name associated with “trashy” fantasy but found himself compelled to record a dream he had had, and found this to be the form best suited to portraying his experiences in a sufficiently diluted way.

    In any case the module presents some interesting concepts, and the concept of the villain – a spiritual evil who incarnates within all living flesh within a certain area, and thus whose existence in that spot the party is directly responsible for – is a clever one, and the proffered mechanism for defeating it is not too obvious (other, more ingenious solutions do exist; if you can find it, the petrified cat in the well is a rather more obvious suggestion, but raises questions of its own).

    Nevertheless the module as a whole gets bogged down in unnecessary running back and forth between rooms, and the “squeamlings” which provide most of the encounters keep coming long after their gimmick has ceased to provide a challenge. One would be tempted to say this module is more fun to read than to play (especially with the pictures being to such a skincrawlingly high standard) except for the fact that a party's reactions to the various problems and ideas involved in the module are always interesting, and rarely come out the same way twice.

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  40. Oh I remember this one well...

    The Citadel of the Fluffy Kitty, one fine if not horrific AD&D module. The Citadel of the Fluffy Kitty is in a pocket dimension, and most adventurers find themselves here after falling into horrible transpatial warps, or stepping into malfunctioning teleport rooms.

    This small realm is home to the Fluffy Kitty, a sentient feline, who never ages, and enjoys taunting and terrorising those that end up in her realm. Fluffy Kitty can cast all spells at the 30th level. However, Fluffy Kitty prefers to use her followers to do her dirty work.

    If forced into battle Fluffy Kitty, or F.K. will ride her ancient red dragon, Snookums, and wield the Awesome Wand of Distractions.

    The Citadel itself is a maze of confusing rooms, all carpeted, except the Litterbox of Doom, which nearly resulted in a TPK when I ran the module.

    Unfortunately, the party bemoaned the lack of meaningful treasure, unaware that the balls of yarn in the Treasure Room, had many useful, magical properties. ( They neglected to cast Detect Magic! )

    The party hated the monster unique to this module, the Ravaging Hair Ball, and there are several wandering the halls of the Citadel. Created by the F.K., ( there's a 50% chance that she will spit one up once a week. They are mindless creatures that F.K. can't control, and will reward any PCs who destroy one or more of them, even returning them to the home realm. The party soon discovered that fireballs worked well on the Hair Balls, doing triple damage, but causing a noxious smoke, that required a Save versus Poison, or be sick 2d6 rounds. Unfortunately, Snookums seems to have some unnatural fear of them...

    I'm not sure I would run this module again, but it was a fun romp. I give it 3 stars.

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  41. Most PCs don't realize at first. If they use fire or Magic on the monsters, they start having tiny burns and itches on their own skins. If they look closely at their members, they will see tiny reflections of themselves.

    They have shrunk and are now inside tiny tumors in the Cancerverse of The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

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  42. Altar of the Fleshwrights

    So a nice departure from what we'd come to expect out of a lot of these mods. You know the problem - one room has a small army of kobolds and a few rooms over there's a couple of trolls just trolling it up with no discernible or proposed relationship with the kobolds - they're all just shallow, sad monsters guarding chests in dark rooms. Kind of like if adventurers broke into your job and started trying to go for your workstations.

    Anyway - none of that! The fact that the dungeon itself comprised its own ecology - the budding monsters, the the gut flora and so on.

    Really - I thought the adaptations of the various oozes and slimes into the mod were genius - the PCs couldn't figure out if these were just hazards or monsters to fight- and even if I couldn't either - well? More fun that way.

    They actual monster-monsters were all over the place though - challenge wise. I mean - the tomb-of-horrors level trap-trickery was alright by my players since the cleric had found that wand of resurrection, and the dwarf had the ring of regeneration - they did alright with the trap/slime/intestinal flora - but the monster-monsters - like I said - were all over the place.

    Here you've got the anthropomorph ameobas? Is that what they were supposed to be? Just transparent skinned troglodytes? They were easy for the players to deal with at range- but whenever they got the drop on anyone it was just murder - as in I had to fudge die roles just to keep them alive.

    Meanwhile the big-bads - the fleshwrighgt clerics of the Living Thing - they were just pushovers - at least once the party's clerics figured out that they could turn the skinbag zombies as normal. Then it was just over.

    My players were very happy with the experience - and by that I mean the XP reward - they still get weird and blush a little at the descriptions of the various apertures and sphincters of the dungeon - but neither I or the players were happy with the crummy amount of loot offered. In fact the one 'treasure' that anyone thought to get was the frozen polyp-seed of the whole dungeon itself - because OF COURSE the Halfling has to be Chaotic and of Course he'll only promise to destroy the thing and then keep it for himself.

    I mean - giving people access to that kind of a thing and then never addressing it in any other module ever was kind of irresponsible.

    Still a good time.

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  43. When the son-that-devours castrated the universal-sky-father and cast his severed testicles into the ocean, his semen mingled with the algae of deep places in the foam of the waves and issued forth this module. Three out of five stars.

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  44. http://gettinggame.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/fabric-of-fear/

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  45. NOT trying to pimp my page, little ashamed to post the link actually, it just ended up being too big for Blogger to let me post here.

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  46. I just love that album, cover and all!

    Sorry that I had nothing else to say...

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  47. Ah, Module Y1, Masque of the Golden One.

    Actually it was published in our continuum but all copies were eventually seized and contained by a secretive department of the British government I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of.

    It's the original source of the whole D&D Satanic Scare. Quite understandably so after the madness, murder and rum goings on that followed every attempt to play the module. Thankfully only one in ten DMs were mentally strong enough to prepare for the module let alone run it, so the damage to the fabric of space-time was limited.

    In theory it could be run safely behind magnitude 9 wards but nobody is prepared to risk cracking open a portal into the dungeon dimensions just for the XP.

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