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.

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