Last week, I began to tell you all about the 1st Edition D&D modules that hold a special place in my heart. I detailed 3 and held 3 back, saving them to share with you this week. Here then, without further preamble, are my other 3 choices for 1st Edition modules that still live for me.
Many Years Ago, Rumor Has It…
I’m cheating a little with this inclusion, as it’s not a 1st Edition module, but
B1: In Search of the Unknownwas literally the first module for D&D that I ever encountered. Whenever people are asking me about my gaming pedigree, I mention that I started with the module they brought out before the Keep on the Borderlands, and peoples’ eyes get wide.
The “Story” of B1 is that a location has been found that may be the fabled Quasqueton, dungeon/residence of Rogahn the Fearless and Zelligar the Unknown. Since these two famous adventurers are believed to have perished in wars with barbarians of late, their complex is ripe for the plundering.
This module is the quintessential dungeon crawl. There are things that appear in many other adventures, such as a room full of pools full of different things, a maze with a minotaur, magic mouths that foretell the PCs’ dooms, and awesomely valuable treasures that’re impossible (or at least difficult) to transport away, such as the huge monogrammed bed in Zelligar’s bedroom.
I also love this module just for the ridiculous idea that retired adventures want to live in a dungeon. I mean, sure, why not?
The Earth Dragon Rumbles…
Okay, so many all the pictures of adventurers in loincloths didn’t hurt for a gay teenager, but I love A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. The last adventure in the Slave Lord adventures, this module was originally the finals of the D&D Open at GenCon XIII.
The adventure begins with the PCs, who’ve been captured by the Slave Lords, waking up in a cave system. They are naked, except for loincloths, and have no weapons or equipment except for a handful of scrolls that were slipped to them by a secret ally. From then on, the players need to make their way out of the dungeon, improvising all the way. How the players deal with this adversity will really show off their wits. And all the while, a volcano, the Earth Dragon, is waking up, threatening to destroy the locale and the players with it.
I love this adventure, because it really pushes the players’ wits to their limits. It also proves that adventurers can’t be defined by their equipment. And this module gives the PCs the chance to directly fight with the Slave Lords after a long campaign of fighting their plans. Certainly it doesn’t hurt to have some of Erol Otus’ art (as I mentioned last article, he was one of my favorite classic D&D artists.) And this module introduced two truly classic D&D monsters, the cave fisher and the myconids. I have a true soft spot for some of D&D’s wacky monsters.
Acererak Congratulates You on Your Powers of Observation…
Okay, it may shock no one that, like most people who were playing D&D in the 70s, the epitome of modules for me is S1: The Tomb of Horrors. This module is a true classic, and it has been released or adapted into all four numbered editions of the game.
Tomb of Horrors, according to its author Gary Gygax, was created for the first Origins convention. The fact that he was using the playtest to try and kill his son’s character, Tenser, and the character Robilar, created by Rob Kurtz. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Gygax kept the module around for when a player at a convention would brag about their unkillable character. He’s alleged to have offered to DM them through a module on the condition that, if their character died, they would never play that character again. Some versions of this story even suggest that Gygax would write a note to the player’s DM on the player’s dead character’s sheet, saying that they had died in the Tomb of Horrors and could not be played again.
The module concerns an expedition into the legendary tomb of the lich Acererak, and the lich has filled his resting place with monsters, tricks, traps, and puzzles. There are actually relatively few monsters or treasures. In some ways, the treasure of the adventure is simply to survive it and have some bragging rights.
Something that made this adventure very much an “Oooo!” experience is that it came with a second booklet full of illustrations keyed to the different rooms of the dungeon. This was great, because it often had players asking, “What’s that in the picture?” which would allow me to re-emphasize something from the flavor text that they would miss.
I ran the adventure a number of times in its first edition incarnation, claiming the lives of several players. I was actually a player in a 2nd Edition run of Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Bruce Cordell’s incredible update and expansion of the material. A few years back, I got to talking to a number of players who’d never had the chance to play the adventure, and I ran through the adventure twice. One group made it through pretty flawlessly, and a second group made me vow not to play with one of the players ever again. It’s just one of those kinds of adventures.
Making a list like this is tough, because there are so many examples of great adventures from those days. The whole Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh series of modules, Castle Ravenloft, the Against the Giants adventures, and so much more.
I’m sure you’ve read my list and said, “But what about *blank*?” I’d love to hear your stories about which modules are your favorites, or about how you ran one of the modules I’ve listed. By all means, let us all know!