Saturday, April 6, 2013

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Tiamat

It was 2006. The Lord of the Rings movies were over. Britney Spears had not yet shaved her head. And there came forth a module: The Red Hand of Doom.

Some said Whoa, a module! WOTC hasn't put out one of those in four years!

Some said Wait, isn't that a Hellboy storyline?

Nope, wrong hand.
Some said Wait, is that Nick Cave? Or Milton?

 "What if the breath that kindled those grim fires, 
Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage, 
And plunge us in the flames; or from above 
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us?" 

Nope, wrong hand.

Some said Huh, whuh? Is it any good?

And it is to that fourth host I dedicate the following blog entries.

Let's see what's in here...


-Italic text. The head hobgoblin's giving a little St Crispin's Day speech to the troops...

"We will take the lands of the elf, the dwarf, and the human, and make them ours! Under the banner of the White  Red Hand of Sauruman Doom we march..."'s like that. 

-There's a Temple of Tiamat. I like that. I love Tiamat. Did I ever tell you how much I loved Tiamat? I think I did once. I love her fiercely and unconditionally. Be good to her, Richard Baker and James Jacobs, I am watching you.

- "... the young half-dragon hobgoblin warrior Azarr Kul discovered the abandoned temple and was awed by the teachings of Tiamat he read..." Also, I love that there's teachings. That's a marvelous concept--is "You should incinerate people and then shoot them with poison and lightning, that's what I do" a teaching?

-Basically, war is coming, and there are various missions the party undertakes to weaken the enemy before the final showdown. These sections get chapters:

  • I: You find out there's goblins who want to have a big war. And you fight a dragon.
  • II: You meet some elves. And you fight a dragon.
  • III: You go somewhere and fight someone and there's a lich.
  • IV: Epic battle at Minas Tirith Brindol.
  • V: You take the fight to Mordor the Wyrmsmoke Mountains
-Page 6 has a Tipper Gore Gamer's wet dream: An actual picture of an actual Savage Orc menacing an actual Helpless Female--in an actual Mainstream RPG Product. Come see the violence inherent in the system!! If you look carefully the girl's got a Marilyn Manson streak in her hair.

-Page 6 also has something people with lives might care about--the thing signally missing from Expedition To The Ruins of Greyhawk's Evil Army Slowly Gathering scenario: a motherfucking timeline for the motherfucking bad guys to do their motherfucking plans to motherfucking sweep across the motherfucking landscape plus motherfucking descriptions of motherfucking things the motherfucking players can motherfucking do to motherfucking delay and/or motherfucking disrupt motherfucking it.

-The epic battle is influenced by a victory point system: every time the PCs successfully accomplish a leg of their mission that should affect the fortunes of their foes, they get some victory points which count for their side in the battle. Original or not, it's a good idea.

-There's some advice about distributing magic items. This being from the 3.5 era, it's appalling.

-There's a D100 random terrain-type table that's mathematically identical to what it would've been as a d20 table. Kinda makes you wonder what they teach in Game Designer School. Harmless though.

-4 paragraphs of wholly fantasy-generic local history because why I don't know...

-Did You Know?

Brindol is 81% Human, 8% Halfling, 5% Dwarf, 3% Half Orc, 2% Gnome 1% Elf

Germany is 81% German, 7% Other European, 4% Turk, 2% Asian, 6% Other

Now That You Know, Do You Care?
Oh and it has this picture, which has got to be in the top ten worst D&D pictures ever. Yellowish Rugby Hooligans Of Doom?
-One of the NPC clerics is named Shining Servant Tredora Goldenbrow. Christ. That's like Dungeon World bad.

-Oh and here's Farstrider Terise Whellin. These aren't even pot-smoking names, these are like names you think are a good idea after just smoking some leaves. Just like whatever's in the yard. Whelll-innn. Yeahhhhh.

-Lots of places are described. Some might wonder why the basic strategic skinny on each of these places wasn't written on the map ("Dwarf mines here""Bridge here") instead of just like muddly overlay textures of dirt and rocks, but I've learned not to ask such questions. You might think the descriptions would focus on what you need to remember about each of these places in order to understand the coming adventure rather than, say, what kind of nuts they grow. You would be incorrect.

Oh but it gives a sense of atmosphere and place and... Well, kinda. The place is "a generic eurofantasy place" and, more importantly, if I'm the kind of person bothering to read this I probably have 900 generic eurofantasy places in my head already and as I read these five pages of places I do not know which of the things being told to me is supposed to be important later and which is there because the author thinks I am just plum missing out if I don't know Lake Rhestin used to have houses around it but it doesn't anymore and similar fascinating business about thirty other places.

If it's the engagement of unfolding narrative they want: just reveal these things as they become important. If it's sandboxable reference material, put them after the plot so I don't sit there going "Why are you telling me the folk of Nimon Gap grow apples, pears, and chestnuts while shepherds and goatherds keep their livestock in the heights now of all times? Will there be a quiz? Do I need to know this before I hear about orc plans?". And make the entries shorter.

-Despite all this stuff and spastica Kirin of Old School Hack fame and the guy running me and various members of the D&DW/Pornstars crew through Rappan Athuk every week tells me he ran it and it was epic. So let's remember terrible taste and total organizational failure does not necessarily a bad time make. 

See you next time in Part One: The Witchwood...



  1. I never got the chance to play a lot of non-homebrew Type III games, but this one sounds very similar to a lot of Type IV modules. The set-up is almost identical to one that came with the 4e DM Kit.

    Wonder if it's worth it to do a reprint with better art/less flabby dialogue.

  2. Red Hand of Doom is one of the rare 3.x adventures I wouldn't mind running again to make it even more fun and epic. We started a warrior-types only campaign with Sons of Gruumsh (a Forgotten Realms adventure about Uruk-hais and their grim, gray fortress full of berserker orcs) and continued to RoHD. Despite all the typical waste-of-space 3rd edition stuff, it's so good that it even got a 4E sequel called Scales of War in Dungeon Magazines 156-175. I've only read the synopsis of it, and it involves a lot of planar travel, god killing and it doesn't have a timeline so I doubt it is as good.

  3. I'm totally okay with the name "Shining Servant Tredora Goldenbrow" - if, and only if, it's a fake name that the ridiculous Cleric wants everyone to call her, and no, everyone in town still calls her "Claire Hogswain". Except her sad pig farming family that's really proud she's done something useful with her life, but wishes she'd stop telling people her family was eaten by gnolls.

    1. "oh look at that miss-too-good-for-pig-shit has gone and made her mother cry again, that what they teach you in priest school is it? Breaking you own mothers heart, for the shame of it Clare for the shame of it!"