Saturday, October 30, 2021

Gen Con XIII: Against the Slavers

Gen Con XIII was held in August, 1980 on the Parkside Campus of the University of Wisconsin.  The AD&D open tournament was "Against the Slavers", a collaborative effort by David “Zeb” Cook, Harold Johnson, Tom Moldvay, Allen Hammack, and Lawrence Schick.

Gen Con XIII as advertised in The Dragon #40 (August, 1980).

According to Jake Jaquet's article "Conventions 1980" published in The Dragon #43, the tournament started with over 800 players (a sizeable proportion of the 4500 in attendance).  In a separate article, Dave Cook describes how such a large number of players was handled:

Five first rounds were required to narrow the contestants down to a mere 135 semi-finalists which in turn became only 45 finalists. To do all this required 5 different first-round scenarios, a semi-final round, and a final-round design.

Dave Cook, "Survival tips for the Slave Pits" The Dragon #43

The tournament was later published as the 4-module "Aerie of Slave Lords" series, intended for character levels 4-7.

A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity"* combines two of the first-round scenarios (the temple and the sewers), A2 "Secret of the Slavers' Stockade" combines another two of the first-round scenarios, and the first part of A3 "Aerie of the Slave Lords" represents the fifth first-round scenario.

*in its rush to print, the map for A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity" contained two errors:

There are two corrections to be made on the map of A1, both of which should be obvious to those DMs who have already read the module. The first is in the upper section (temple) at area 16. This should be lettered 16A, 16B, and 16C; not 16, 16A, 16B. The other is on the key to the module — a circle indicates a trap door in the floor, not a trap door in the front.

Dave Cook, "Survival tips for the Slave Pits" The Dragon #43

The second part of A3 represented the semifinal, while A4 "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords" comprised the final round.*

*see also "The Slave Pits revisited: Suggestions for 'saving' the AD&D™ Open" by Philip Meyers, and "Mentzer’s reply: It isn’t that easy" by Frank Mentzer, in The Dragon #49

Winners of the AD&D open tournament at Gen Con XIII in August, 1980 as announced in The Dragon #43.

The A Series

The A series is notable for being set within the region of the Pomarj, the first tournament adventure designed specifically for the World of Greyhawk.

A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity" by David Cook

Cook discusses the development of the AD&D open tournament, and A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity" in this interview on Grogtalk (June 10, 2020) from 45:28 to 52:04

*see also Jason B. Thompson's D&D walkthrough map for A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity"

The Temple from A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity", original art by Jason B. Thompson

A2 "Secret of the Slavers' Stockade" by Harold Johnson and Tom Moldvay

Johnson discusses the development of the AD&D open tournament, his collaboration with Tom Moldvay on A2 "Secret of the Slavers' Stockade", and villainess Markessa in this interview on Grogtalk (January 17, 2021) from 01:12:40 to 01:24:25

A3 "Aerie of the Slave Lords" by Allen Hammack

Hammack discusses the development of the AD&D open tournament, and the final encounter in A3 "Aerie of the Slave Lords" in this interview on Grogtalk (March 2, 2020) from 59:12 to 01:03:50

A4 "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords" by Lawrence Schick

Schick discusses A4 "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords", and the Earth Dragon in this interview on Roll for Initiative (January 28, 2013) from 07:45 to 12:51

Sequels and Derivative Works:

The supermodule A1-4 "Scourge of the Slave Lords" (1986) was revised for character levels 7-11, to serve as a bridge between T1-4 "The Temple of Elemental Evil" and GDQ1-7 "Queen of the Spiders".

A sequel for 2e "Slavers" (2000) by Sean K. Reynolds and Chris Pramas takes place a decade after the events in A1-4 and is designed for character levels 4-5.

Hackmaster released "Smackdown the Slavers" (2002) by Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson, David S. Kenzer, Jamie LaFountain, Don Morgan, Mark Plemmons.

The 1e versions were re-released as "Against the Slave Lords"* (2013) together with A0 "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry" by Skip Williams, for character levels 1-3

*in conjunction with Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Series "The Scourge of Suderham" miniatures by Giorgio Bassani

(Left to right): Nerelas the Assassin, Mordramma the Priest, Feetla the Master Buccaneer, Ajaktsu the Magic-User and Brother Milerjoi the Monk

Also for 1e "The Last Slave Lord" in Dungeon #215 (June, 2013) serves as "A5".

Another 1e adventure "Lowdown in Highport" in Dungeon #221 (December, 2013) takes place in between A0 and A1.

Other Settings:

As a fan of the Mystara setting, I posted my thoughts on Setting modules A1-4/Slave Lords in the Gulf of Hule over at the Piazza, a while back.

Map of Hule from module X5 "The Temple of Death" with recommended location for the city of Highport from A1 "Slave Pits of the Undercity" (left) and the Gulf of Hule (right) from "Adapting classic AD&D modules to a Mystara campaign" in Threshold: the Mystara Magazine #22

Module X5 "The Temple of Death" described the land of Hule. The wilderness map included areas the DM was expected to detail further, including several unnamed towns. One of these, in southern Hule (see map) is an ideal candidate for Highport.

The population of Hule was described to be a mixture of humans and non-humans, mainly orcs, gnolls, bugbears, kobolds, and ogres. The rulers are chaotic and serve chaotic gods, and most of the human populace are either chaotic or neutral in alignment.

Placing Highport in the Gulf of Hule allows PCs adventuring in the Wild Lands to get embroiled with the Slave Lords, whose activities could be encroaching upon the civilized lands to the East, including Darokin, Karameikos, Ierendi, and Minrothad.

The proximity to Hule itself would serve well as a market for slaves from the Known World, given that slavery is likely a foundation of Hulean society. In fact, the Iron Ring in Karameikos could be allied with the Slave Lords.

Ayskudag works best in Mystara circa 1000 AC, since Highport in the Pomarj is directly north of the Drachensgrab Hills. There are even some choice nearby volcanoes for the City of Suderham.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Origins 80: Dwellers of the Forbidden City

Origins 80, sponsored by Strategy and Fantasy World, was held at Widener College in Chester, Pennsylvania, June 27-29, 1980.  The AD&D tournament was "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" by David "Zeb" Cook.

Ad for Strategy & Fantasy World, from The Dragon #39 (July, 1980), sponsors for the Origins Game Fair in June, 1980

There were no ads in The Dragon (apart from one advertising group transportation to Origins in The Dragon #38 (June, 1980) and Jake Jaquet's editorial in The Dragon #40 mentioned the location "was changed to Widener at the last minute, due to a scheduling problem with the University of Delaware, where the convention was originally supposed to be held".*

*the location was given as 293 Walchaerts Ct., Newtown Square, PA in The Dungeoneer #15 (Jan-Feb, 1980) and then Valley Forge Shopping Center, King of Prussia, PA in The Dungeoneer #16 (March-April, 1980), #17 (May-June, 1980)

A prior ad in The Dragon #36 (April, 1980) stated "This convention season, TSR Periodicals will be sponsoring tournaments at four major conventions across the country." Michicon IX (June 6-8), Origins (June 27-29), Gen Con XIII (August 21-24), Pacificon (August 29 - September 1).  The "Aerie of the Slave Lords" was held at Gen Con, but I'm not sure about the other two.

The  tournament  scenario is given in the background of the published module, and involved "The Forgotten Entrance" (areas A1 to A10).  The characters used were the first six listed in the "Character Roster", and players were given 3.5 hours to complete their objective.

Sources of Inspiration:

"Dwellers of the Forbidden City" was described as "a lost jungle city in the great tradition of  Edgar Rice Burroughs" by Eric Boyd in Dungeon #116, although perhaps owes more to the "Weird Tales" era than to either Burroughs or Haggard.

When asked about the influence of "Red Nails" by Robert E. Howard, Cook responded:

Well, I'm not surprised by the "Red Nails" reference since that was what I was clearly going for. It's my favorite Conan story and the city was based off of it. It was originally something I did for my own campaign and then used it as my resume when I applied to TSR.

David Cook, from an interview with James Maliszewski
(July 3, 2009)

*for those interested, Cook discusses "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" in this interview on Grogtalk (May 23, 2020) from 2:45:30 to 2:48:40

Players map of the Forbidden City, from Dyson Logos' blog (June 7, 2015)

The published adventure was presented as more of a wilderness micro-setting with several, loosely related encounter areas, rather than as a traditional dungeon, allowing for a much more open-ended, sandbox-style game.

Perhaps because the tournament portion only comprised a small part of the finished module "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" was not published as part of the C or "Competition" series, but was originally going to be released as part of the S or "Special" series, according to The Acaeum.

The module is notable for the introduction of several new monsters, including the aboleth, bullywug,* mongrelman, pan lung,* tasloi, yellow musk creeper,* and yuan ti (similar to the "sons of Set" from JG 88 "Dark Tower" by Jennell Jaquays, likewise inspired by "Red Nails")

*the bullywug was created by Luke Gygax and appeared in the AD&D 1e Fiend Folio (released at Gen Con XIV in August, 1981); the pan lung originally appeared in the article "Chinese Dragons" by David Sweet in The Dragon #24 (April, 1979) and was reprinted in the Fiend Folio; and the yellow musk creeper was created by Albie Fiore and also appeared in the Fiend Folio

Other Settings:

As with prior early tournament modules, "Dwellers of the Forbidden City" was shoehorned into "The World of Greyhawk" setting, although fits quite nicely into "The Wild Lands" of the D&D game world, from X6 Quagmire! on Mystara.

Map of Serpent Peninsula from X6 Quagmire! (left) and Champions of Mystara (right) indicating the location of Onyo Maata, a suitable location for I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City

I've previously posted my ideas for a X6/I1 Quagmire/Dwellers of the Forbidden City mash-up over at the Piazza, including BECMI stats for bullywugs, mongrelmen, tasloi, and yuan ti.

Having run this adventure a few years ago, I think it has great potential to be expanded (perhaps as part of the Goodman Games "Original Adventures Reincarnated" series).

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Jungle Fever

The Dragon #31 (November, 1979) included a pair of articles by Tim Kask and Jake Jaquet on role-playing adventures in the jungle.

Cover to The Dragon #31 (November, 1979).  Illustration by Alan Burton.

Civilizations: From High to Low, by Tim Kask

All around you, the jungle closes in: hot, stifling, humid, the air heavily laden with delicate scents and pungent aromas alike—foreign, oppressive, foreboding, Overhead, a constrictor the thickness of your thigh dozes in the meagre sun that penetrates the leafy canopy. All around you swoop birds exotically colored and fantastically feathered, piping their raucous calls. The air, so thick it threatens suffocation, is alive with insects: stinging, buzzing, biting, blinding and maddening. Deadly animals can only be seen occasionally, often too late to react to. More common are the more placid types, so at home here in this alien environment, posing no overt threats. Underfoot, more insects, some deadlier than any snake. Snakes slither everywhere, festooned from branches, clustered in the sun, silent, sinister, deadly. Overhead, the ever-present, never silent monkeys, those gossips of the jungle who see all and tell all to all who can and will listen.

Tim Kask, from The Dragon #31 (November, 1979)

Kask touches on various aspects of real-world cultures in Africa, South America (plus Central America & The Valley of Mexico), and Asia and Micronesia.

The role-playing effects of heat and humidity are considered, as well as a section on Fantastic Civilizations:

H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs achieved literary fame by writing novels dealing with the jungle. Haggard, in particular, specialized in fantastic civilizations isolated from time and man’s interference, located in deep jungles, usually in a hidden valley, or on top of a jungle-girt mountain. I can only recommend that you peruse their works for inspiration in establishing your jungle adventures.

Tim Kask, from The Dragon #31 (November, 1979)

Burroughs introduced several evocative lost cities and civilizations in the Tarzan series (such as Opar, Xuja, and Pal-ul-Don)

Kask mentions "Lost Civilizations: A Fantasy Supplement for Source of the Nile" by J. Eric Holmes in The Dragon #24, and also discusses jungle weapons, such as blowguns and the effects of poisons.

A Vacation Spot? Certainly Not! by Jake Jaquet

Illustration by Erol Otus, from The Dragon #31 (November, 1979)

Jaquet discusses the impact of geography, and provides suggestions for incorporating rules from Source of the Nile in D&D.  He describes various jungle Flora and Fauna.

Statistics for jungle creatures from the AD&D 1e Monster Manual are reproduced:

Ape (Gorilla), Ape (Carnivorous), Boar, Jaguar, Herd Animal,  Hippopotamus, Lion (Lion, Mountain Lion, Spotted Lion) , Rhinoceros

In addition, the entry for Dragon's Bestiary describes the Ukuyatangi, or "Jungle Hydra"

Jaquet covers natural hazards, including disease, quicksand, and animal traps set by native tribes.  He concludes with suggestions for a high-level magic-user establishing a base in the jungle.


Kask and Jaquet's articles provide starting points, but are short on details useful for gaming.  The D&D modules X1 "The Isle of Dread" and X6 "Quagmire!" are extremely useful in this regard.

X6: Quagmire! (1984) by Merle M. Rasmussen.  See here for my review

I've run X1 "The Isle of Dread" once, and X6 "Quagmire!" twice (once recently).  The latter in particular is more useful as a mini-setting, rather than an adventure module per se.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Of the Gods

"Of the Gods" by Craig Bakey was published in The Dragon #29 (September, 1979), in which a system for designing a set of "Campaign Gods" is presented, distinct from the various mythos in Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes.

Illustration by David C. Sutherland III, possibly "Thunderfoot" the god of storms in battle with "Darquetue" the god of monsters

Bakey posits that the dominance of pantheons is cyclic, and that "beyond the gods are forces of immeasurable power who have long since ceased to care about the multiverse they fathered (sometimes called the old gods)".*

*these "old gods" are similar to the Old Ones as described in the D&D Immortals Set, by Frank Mentzer

According to Bakey's cosmology:
No one can be sure of the exact nature of the old gods but most interpretations describe them as 24 hyper-physical padrones which manifest themselves as coloured jewels of six different disciplines. It is assumed that the concepts of Law and Chaos originated in these jewels, as did the gods themselves.
The first discipline governs abstract relation—existence, relation, quantity, order, number, time, change and causation. These are the blue gems. The second, the purple gems, govern space, dimensions, form, motion and space in general. The greens govern matter, both organic, inorganic. Intellect is governed by the yellows, including the formation and communication of ideas. The fifth, the oranges govern volition, namely individual and intersocial volitions. The final discipline manifests itself as red gems that govern affections: personal, sympathetic, moral, religious and affections in general.

Craig Bakey, The Dragon #29 (September, 1979)

All gods have the following properties in common:
1. All abilities (strength, intelligence, etc.) equal 20
2. Magical resistance is at least 25%
3. Not affected by weapons of less than +2
4. All gods capable of gate (95%), polymorph self, tongues,* ESP, and astral ethereal travel

*an AD&D 1e 4th level clerical spell

Tables are provided to determine the following characteristics:
1. Status in the hierarchy* (+/- relations)
2. Alignment** and gender
3. Armor class and hit points
4. Portfolio
5. Extraordinary abilities and fantastic possessions
6. Chance of intervention
*one of the entries in the table is "Duptrmr Nrinh/Tulrt" an error introduced by the optical character recognition used to digitize the text.  I googled the term, to see whether anyone had figured it out, and google asked "Did you mean: Supreme Ring/Ruler".  I therefore realized that the entry must have read "Supreme Being/Ruler" and also surprisingly that one can use google to help decipher OCR errors...

**nine-point alignment system from the AD&D 1e Players Handbook is used

Naturally, I had to give the tables a spin.  Here is what I came up with:

Status in the hierarchy (55 on d%): God of the Inner Circle (no relations)
Alignment (72 on d%) and gender (91 on d%): Lawful neutral, female
Armor class and hit points (11 on d%); AC 3, hp 120

Gods of the Inner Circle may have two portfolios.
Roll d4 and  apply the following results:
1 - roll on P1 only, 2 - roll on P2 only, 3 or 4 - roll on each table.

I rolled a 1 on d4 (roll on Portfolio table 1 only): 44 on d%: Space

Those gods whose portfolios are determined on tables P1, P2, or P3, will have the powers of Wish (Limited or Full) over events concerning their respective portfolios as well as rulership over non-humanoid types governed therein.

Extraordinary abilities and fantastic possessions (3 rolls):
83 on d%: Fighter abilities (6 on 2d4): Lord 21st level
06 on d%: Minor artifact (roll on any miscellaneous magic table or rings): drums of panic
19 on d%: Armor/Shield

Chance of intervention (13 on 2d10): Sympathetic to cosmic affairs only

We therefore have a goddess of space, F21, LN, AC3, hp 120, with armor/shield and drums of panic, sympathetic to cosmic affairs only.  Certainly enough to get the creative juices flowing.  It would be interesting to randomly determine a whole pantheon, this way.

Sample Pantheon:

The author shares details of several deities he created for his home campaign in Toronto, heavily influenced by the works of Michael Moorcock:

The conflict began when the unholy armies of the Lord of Night secured the Astral Plane, banishing those inhabiting it and restricting travel. But as the Cosmic Balance began to tip, the Neutral Lords enlisted the aid of a group of strict lawful immortals and the struggle for supremacy was on.

Craig Bakey, The Dragon #29 (September, 1979)

Bakey's pantheon is divided into three houses, based on the OD&D three-alignment system.  They are described in more detail in his article, but also listed, here below:
1. The Commune of Codification (The White Lords of Law)
Telesm - the god of knowledge and patriarchs (the Ruler)
Trion - god of the seas and all #3’s
Lemus - The Protector, the god of animals
Thunderfoot - the god of storms
Battleace - the god of justice/art/poetry and music
Mobus - the god of movement/order/games (contests)
Dormamnu - the god of paradoxes and energy
Teala - the goddess of whimsy
Glimmer - the goddess of dreams/mind/thought
Presence - the god of all things that do not live, yet exist

2. "Areopagus" The Tribunal of Juste Milieu (Neutrality)

Chyron - the god of time and balance
Bscyen - (Nature)
The Grey Racer
Ardnha - the presence of swords and machines
Horus - the avenger*
*Horus is currently gaining power through the souls pledged to him by Opeius who wields the black blade—Cimmarian
3. The Caliginostic Disunionn (the Dark Gods of Chaos)
Darkwyon - the Dark Lord
Darquetue - the god of monsters
Tiffany - the goddess of entropy
Drue - the god of fools
Ado - the god of bile
Whisper - the god of forceful intervention
Kahn - lord of dragons
Magnar - the god of improbability
Quasiman - the goddess of black sorcerers

Bakey's article captures the spirit of OD&D campaigns as they were run in the days before the codification of AD&D and prepackaged campaign settings.  It would be extremely interesting to know whether any of his material still exists.


Bakey's article in The Dragon #29 was missing a title, a fact addressed by assistant editor Jake Jaquet a couple of issues later:

...we (the TSR Periodicals staff and our printer—we’ll share the blame this month) inadvertently dropped a title and a couple of bylines for articles that appeared in THE DRAGON #29. Our apologies. Now, here’s your chance to play editor: Take out your #2 robin’s-egg blue editing pencil and open your copy of TD #29 to pages 4 and 5—Craig Bakey’s article-pick a clear spot in the art and in big block letters write “Of The Gods.” That’s the title that should have been there. Circle it and spec it for 48 point Souvenir Bold type.

Jake Jaquet, from The Dragon #31 (November, 1979)

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Elementals and the Philosopher’s Stone

“Elementals and the Philosopher’s Stone” by Jeff Swycaffer was published in The Dragon #27 (July, 1979), in which Aristotelian concepts were drawn upon in order to expand the types of elementals in the OD&D game.

A brief video excerpt of Jeff Swycaffer's article "Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone" viewable here

The article includes a pattern for a 26-sided polyhedron, comprised of 18 square sides and 8 triangular ones, which can be cut out and assembled.  (I printed the page using a color printer, cut out the pattern, and folded it together using a glue stick.)

Swycaffer incorporates the four sensible properties relating to each of the four classical elements, as described in Aristotle's "On Generation and Corruption"

The classical elements and their sensible qualities, as described by Aristotle in his treatise "On Generation and Corruption".

In Swycaffer's scheme, the elemental axis is oriented perpendicular to the opposite poles of "good" and "evil", giving rise to eight qualities ("pleasure", "fertility", "beginning", and "light" adjacent to "good"; and "pain", "barren", "ending", and "darkness" adjacent to "evil").

The demons in "Eldritch Wizardry" are considered the elementals of evil, while angels as described in the article "Messengers of God: Angels in D&D" by Stephen H. Dorneman, published in The Dragon #17 (August, 1978) are considered the elementals of good.

In addition, statistics for twelve new and imaginative types of elementals are given, such as dryness elementals (appearing as a shimmering in the air, sucking moisture) or barren elementals (appearing as a normal human, blighting fields and spreading plagues).

Alchemical symbols for Earth and the seven classical planets

As an extra touch, the eight triangular sides of Swycaffer's polyhedron bear alchemical symbols for Earth and the seven classical planets (see also "The Seven Magical Planets" by Tom Moldvay, published in The Dragon #38)

Swycaffer wrote several articles for The Dragon between 1978 and 1988 (see the author index on Dragondex), and also became a writer of science fiction.

"Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone" was later mentioned by Gary Gygax in his column "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" in The Dragon #32 (December, 1979):

It is of interest to relate that just prior to the appearance of the excellent article “Elementals and the Philosopher’s Stone,” by Jeff Swycaffer (THE DRAGON #27, Vol. IV, No. 1, July 1979), Dave Sutherland and I were discussing the various Elemental Planes, concentrating on the borderland areas between them, i.e. where Water touches Air and Earth and where Fire touches Air and Earth.  Mr. Swycaffer’s ideas were good indeed, and if vapor is substituted for “moist” and dust is used to replace the term “dry/dryness,” you will have a good idea as to how the borderlands between Elemental Planes will be treated.  Naturally, the denizens of these regions, “paraelementals” (not to be confused with Fritz Leiber’s “paramentals”) and other things, will also add to the overall scope of the game.

The ethical/moral concepts of good and evil do not, I believe, properly belong to any treatment of the elemental area, per se.  But while there will be no “good” or “evil” elemental type, there certainly must be elementals of good or evil disposition to complement those of neutral bent.  Similarly, the attributes of barrenness and fertility, the conditions of pleasure and pain, and the states of beginning and end are not elemental in the sense of the term used in AD&D.  The presence or absence of light isn’t necessarily tied to the elemental principle either, although it is a very nice touch with respect to the polarity of the “Philosopher’s Stone.”

While certain of the precepts of Mr. Swycaffer’s article will be evident in treatments of the various Elemental Planes, the whole-will not be there.  This is mentioned so that Dungeon masters reading this article will be able to peruse these modules with the aim of understanding the methods by which rules and an overall scheme were selected and tied together to arrive at something similar, yet different, in AD&D.  If you have opinions which you wish to share with us, please drop me a line.  Better still, if you have what you believe is an outstanding treatment of one of the planes, why not submit it to TSR’s design department?*

Gary Gygax "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" in The Dragon #32 (December 1979)

*a letter by Steven Kienle was later published as part of the article "Elementary ideas for elemental adventuring" in Dragon #47 (March 1981)

Swycaffer's ideas would inform the concept of para-elemental planes as described in "Deities & Demigods" (1980), with "ice", "dust", "heat", and "vapour" substituted for "cold", "dryness", "heat", and "moisture".

Torus illustrating the relationship between the Elemental to the Paraelemental Planes, from Deities & Demigods (1980)

Later still, Gygax would describe the quasi-elemental planes of  "lightning", "mineral", "radiance", and "steam" adjacent to the positive material plane; and "ash", "dust", "salts", and "vacuum" adjacent to the negative material plane, in his article "The Inner Planes" in Dragon #73 (May, 1983).