Recently, I’ve been playing more than writing about D&D, hence the long gap between posts. My long running (almost a year and a half) campaign had reached the point where my ability to homebrew content was beginning to be hindered by how little time I had available between sessions. As a result I started to look back towards pre-published content.
Luckily, the party had just hit level 8 and it turned out that this level was ideal for ‘White Plume Mountain’ from ‘Tales from the Yawning Portal’. I jumped with joy a little bit when I realised that I could also tie it in with my current storyline about a curious Cleric who has a sideline in building specialised dungeons to protect magical items. That works really well with the main thrust of WPM being about the recovery of three magical items.
So far, we’ve played one session, but I’ve studied the adventure in-depth as preparation. So what have I learned so far?
It’s back to skool old skool
I played D&D back in the early 1980’s so I’m not unfamiliar with the type of adventures which were on the scene then. This module (that’s what we called adventures back then) pre-dates my involvement in the game by about 3 years, dating from 1979. It’s a module from the ‘glory days’ of 1st Edition. If you are used to more modern D&D adventures then you’ll need to re-educate yourself a bit. Giant Crabs, Golems, electrified corridors, slippery spinning tunnels, aquariums and Ogre Mages abound, with little narrative link between areas or encounters. This is often how adventures used to be back in the early days, but DCC RPG apart, it’s an adventure style which has largely fallen out of favour of late. It takes some getting used to and may jar with your previous adventure style in a campaign.
Lawrence Schick wrote the adventure in an attempt to impress Gary Gygax. That should give you an idea of what you are dealing with. Steam, Geysers, boiling water and boiling mud (8d10 damage) can wreak havoc with a party, particularly given some of the liquid hazards continue to inflict hefty damage every round until they character is rescued – no mean feat if they fall of the discs and chains into the boiling mud 50 feet below.
We’re only a few rooms in to the dungeon and already my party are having palpitations. They see traps everywhere, even when there aren’t any. Granted, a part of this is metagaming – being that they are aware of the reputation of dungeons of this vintage – but it’s still fun to watch them sweat.
The fifth edition printed version is well implemented but the Fantasy Grounds version less so.
The 5th Edition version in TFTYP is great. It retains the retro feel of the original but is considerately updated for 5th Edition. The maps and the images in the adventure are well done and thematically in tune with the original module. The Fantasy Grounds implementation could have been better though. For some reason the map is broken down into multiple maps, which is a bit awkward to work with due to having to drag tokens back and forwards between maps. The map in the book is also drawn with 10′ squares while Fantasy Grounds grid is 5′ squares. This creates a strange misalignment issue which confuses the eye. Granted, the original map should have been drawn as 5′ squares.
Overall, an excellent experience so far. Roll on the next session.