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[OSSR]D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:48 pm    Post subject: [OSSR]D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List



Quote:
This module contians background information, a large-scale referee's map with a matching partial map for players, referee's notes, special exploration and encounter pieces, a large map detailing a temple complex area, encounter and map matrix keys, an and additional section pertaining to a pair of unique new creatures for use with this module and the game as a whole. A complete setting for play of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is contained herein. This module can be played along, as the second part of a series of three modules (with DESCENT INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH, D1, and VAULT OF THE DROW, D3), or as fourth part of a continuing scenario (DUNGEON MODULES G1, G2, G3, D1, D2, D3, and Q1, QUEEN OF THE DEMONWED PITS).

If you have found this module and its companions exciting, stay tuned for more action from The Game Wizards!


At this point, Dungeons & Dragons is so old that the critical literature on a 22-page module like this far exceeds the original pagelength. If you did an annotated, critical edition, it would probably be sixty pages, with an art retrospective, tie-ins to various products, commentary from various reviews, etc. It'll be hardcover, and part of a series that goes back and looks lovingly at the primitive fucking cartoons and reproduces the maps in three-dimensional computer graphics software. And one day, I predict, Dungeons & Dragons is going to be money-grubbing enough that they may well produce that book.



The G-series and D-series modules are classic mainly because...they were some of the first, and most commercially successful; they were printed and reprinted, and were the introduction of many gamers to the actual game of D&D. The format of the modules themselves informed how modules would be - and still are - written, right down to including new monsters, magic items, and other stuff not in the main rulebooks. And to an extant, they set the players and gamemaster's expectations for what various monsters looked and acted like for decades.


Also, lots of Lobster tits!

Background
There aren't chapters as such, but the scenario starts with a basic recap: after fighting some giants (G1-G2-G3), your band of adventurers find out that the giants were being inspired by the Drow, and you descend into the earth (D1), to fight some drow and mind-flayers and wererats and shit. The giant's map shows you have to cross an underground river and roll scene...

Okay, so this is a basic recap of the first adventures in this series; it doesn't give a better or alternative reason for you to be underground. It started out as a tournament module and Gary probably figured "You start in a cavern in the deep earth, you either go forward or you're a bunch of pussies." Which is part of the reason it does include the warning:

Quote:
If your group has not had the opportunity to adventure in these previous modules, you should caution them with respect to the following:

1. The party should have an average level of not less than 9th. figuring
multi-classed characters as 2 or 3 levels higher than the level of their
strongest class.

2. The expedition should number at least 6 and be balanced as to class,
with at least I magic-user and 1 cleric in a party of 6.

3. All members must be provided with magical items of offensive,
defensive and curative nature.

4. Inform your players that they can feel from the pressures and
magnetic forces prevailing in this weird underworld that teleportation
will most certainly not work, and short of use of a powerful wish, they
are committed to going and returning in the same manner-afoot and
braving the dangers of random monster encounters as well as the evil
inhabitants of certain areas.

5. If they do not wish to take a few risks, their characters should stay
”home” and become shopkeepers or farmers.

Then wish them luck!

Okay, so "suggested for 6 players of levels 6-9, appropriate wealth-by-level" in d20 speak. The teleportation special rule is typical railroad tactic - and because 9th-level Magic-Users would be getting their first 5th level spell, and teleport was a 5th-level spell.

Start
Quote:
This module begins in the primary passage which runs northwest, just beyond the “Caverns and Warrens of the Troglodytes” (DUNGEON MODULE D1), hex co-ordinate R20 on the master map. The passageway is about 30’,wide-a sample section is included in the encounter piece map page. The rough walls are hewn straight in places, and there are cracks and gaps here and there. The floor of the tunnel is occasionally littered with stone-fallen stalactites and bits of ceiling, and the walls show natural collapsing of small sections. Many glowing lichens are common here, and fire beetles are less so. The floor is damp, the walls are wet, the air is chill. Absolute quiet prevails when the party ceases their echoing progress, but if silence is maintained for a time small twitterings, rustlings, and faint echoes from far distant can be heard-rats, bats, insects and other subterranean vermin, but what else? A vague air movement can also be felt when the explorers are still, a damp and musty-smelling current moving ever downward along the route the party must follow in pursuit of the Drow. A new series of adventures lies just ahead . . .

"Hex co-ordinate R20" sounds like gibberish but...uh, yeah, this uses hex maps. Whatever! It honestly doesn't matter that much, as far as the PCs are concerned. You're in a cave, go adventure.

There's a section called Notes for the Dungeon Master Only, which is weird because the entire book is for the DM only, so I guess this is just info you're not supposed to share with the players, but again...it's DM's eyes only, so you'd think they would judge that on their own merits. Whatevs.



It mostly consists of details about movement and the environment, especially if the PCs decide to abandon the "main" tunnel and get off onto a secondary or tertiary path. The basic idea being that much of the underground (remember, it wasn't the Underdark yet!) consists of mostly-natural tunnels and caverns, some of which have been colonized or expanded by the things that live there.

Quote:
ASSUME THE MAXIMUM RATE OF TRAVEL IS 1 MILE (1 hex) PER DAY PER 1" OF BASIC MOVEMENT RATE OF THE SLOWEST MEMBER OF THE EXPEDITION,

Also, mules will not slow you down, for they are sure-footed. Paladin's horse, no comment. The basic idea here is that the dwarfs should ride the elves so as not to slow the party down.

Movement in AD&D 1st edition is fucked, and is measured (usually) in inches. The Player's Handbook doesn't mention racial modifiers to movement rates while the Monstrous Manual does so...you're going to be doing something between 6-12 miles per day underground. Looking forwards to the actual map, depending on which route(s) you take, that can get you through this module (the most direct route is about 36 hexes) in something like 3-6 days. If you get lost, go off on side quests (or the wrong tunnel), hit a random encounter that fucks you over, etc. this could potentially take longer.

Quote:
Camping for the night in a passageway (including a spur or room off of same) will incur a random monster check according to the passage type, but only 1 such check for a “normal” sleep period of 8 hours, unless the party simply flops down in the middle of the passage.


Which is, I submit, not a bad thing. While it probably kills the pacing of a tournament module not to be able to "get through the dungeon" in a single session, I actually think it would work better for a party that is actually exploring to deal with issues of time and distance, to spread out the encounters a little, maybe to worry about logistics (although if you have a 9th-level cleric or druid in the party, presumably food and drink aren't major issues), give PCs a chance to heal a bit between encounters, etc.

Tomorrow, we look at random encounter tables...
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fbmf
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I really like these Mini-OSSRs.

Carry on, Good Sir.

Game On,
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Random Monster Tables For Passages
Random encounter tables are so much a part of D&D DNA that most people don't stop to think why they exist. It's not just because everybody likes to roll dice, although that's certainly a part of it: it's because the adventure is actually a sandbox, where the players are supposed to do their own thing. Now, it's not a huge sandbox - the various tunnels give a finite number of paths to move forwards, and the PCs are basically railroaded into moving forward, insofar as no real options are given for saying "fuck it, let's dig for gold" or anything like that.

In practice, from a design standpoint, there's a lot of unspoken issues with the random encounter tables. To start off with, there are three: one each for Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary passages. They're all d20 tables. And they are unbalanced, but in different ways.

Case in point, the Primary Passage has, at the low-end, simple animals like Giant Slugs, 1-2 spitting snakes, and 5-6 fire beetles. These are critters a gang of six 9th-level characters should be able to confidently chew through, with the understanding that a couple crits or 1s could still ruin your day. On the high end, you might run into a rust monster, or 2-5 ghasts with 9-16 ghouls, or 1-4 trolls with 9-16 troglodytes, or 3-12 shadows, or 19-24 bugbears with 25-30 slaves. If you run into more shadows than there are characters in your party, and your party is not entirely made of clerics, you're fucked. You're super-fucked. You're basically dead. Even running into a small army of trolls is a bad day. Now, the actual chance of encountering those trolls is (1 in 10 chance of encountering a monster) (1 in 20 chance to roll a 10) (1 in 2 chance for it to be trolls or a gas spore) = 1/400, or 0.25%.

But then you realize you have to roll for every hex you go through, and there is a minimum of 39 hexes between you and the exit if you're going on the most direct route. So this isn't just a nice stroll to the center of the earth, you're pretty much guaranteed 3.9 random encounters, and a non-trivial number of those are closet trolls.


AD&D: the Original Nintendo Hard

Then we get to the Secondary Passages...these are moderately safer. I won't say hugely safer. But your chances of encountering a wandering monster are only 1 in 12, and while there still are closet trolls, they aren't literally a gang of trolls looking to play Seven Minutes In Heaven. So if any players broke the "referee eyes only" and were savvy with numbers, they'd map out a route that avoided the more traveled primary tunnels when possible, maybe.

But not the Tertiary Passages. Because while the chances of encountering a monster in the Tertiary Passages is also 1 in 12, the difficulty level...increases. Like, a 0.2% chance of encountering a lich or a vampire. I mean, if you're overleveled and want to troll the random encounters for loot, go have fun. But fuck that.

One thing about the tables is that they include parties of Drow and Kuo-Toa clerics/pilgrims/etc. that PCs can encounter. And these are all given generic condensed stat blocks, and also sub-tables to figure out what their bodyguards will look like. So if you see Mister Cavern rolling more than once, be afraid: because it's a 6-sided die, and there's a 20% chance of literal closet trolls, with added pointy-eared fuckbait on the side. (50% in tertiary tunnels when you encounter Drow.) Also, you get Drow Swag, which requires explanation:

Quote:
Special Note Regarding Drow Cloaks, Armor, and Weapons: All of these items have special properties, although none of them radiate any magic. The items are made under the conditions particular to the strange homeland of the Drow, for this place has unknown radiations which impart special properties to these cloaks, armor and weapons. When such items are exposed to direct sunlight a rotting process sets in. The process is absolutely irreversible, and within 2 weeks cloaks will fall to shreds, while armor and weapons become pitted and unusable. If items are not exposed to sunlight, they will retain their magical properties for 31-50 days before losing them, and if they are exposed to the radiation of the Drow homeland 30 or so days, they will remain potent. Items not spoiled by sunlight will eventually lose their special properties if not exposed to the special radiation, but they will remain serviceable as normal cloaks, armor, shields, swords, maces, etc.

Drow sleep poison decays instantly in sunlight. Its power is lost after about 60 days in any event, and the coating on the small bolts and javelins must be periodically renewed with fresh applications of the fungoid substance. The Dark Elves will often have small barrels filled with several packets of this poison, each sealed to insure the poisonous substance remains fresh for about 1 year.


Drow trash is sort of Gary Gygax's effort to introduce fairy gold. It's cool gear, and it's probably an improvement on the stuff you're actually wearing, but it isn't wealth that you can keep in any effective way at the end of the adventure. So totally use it, just don't throw away your old equipment when you upgrade, because seriously, that shit isn't going to last.

The Drow and the Kuo-Toa are both slaver races, and so there's random tables for what race of slaves they have. Which is cool, although I think there are inherent logistical difficulties in what you're supposed to do with said slaves once you presumably free them.



On the plus side, with greater challenges comes greater rewards: pretty much all the Drow and Kuo-Toa drop platinum pieces and gems as loot, so you're not hauling around a ton of copper pieces against your encumbrance limit.

For all that this is a sandbox and most of the encounters are probably going to be random running battles that echo throughout the strange dark corridors beneath the earth, there are set-pieces in specific encounter areas, and we'll look at those...tomorrow.
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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

What do the rules actually say about telling PCs they are going to get fucked by rotting drow equipment? That has been something I have just known for as long as I played D&D, but I was also literally born 10 years after this module was written, so that's a hell of a time for the metagame to seep out.
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Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 2:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Nothing. It says nothing. Entirely up to Mister Cavern, I guess. The PCs could be taking their swag back up to the surface and it just rots off in a couple of weeks.
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Harshax
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Upgrades weren't obvious or specifically advertised as such in most D&D modules, except when you and the rogue got medals places around your neck while the Wookiee complained unintelligibly about being left out. The whole point of drow equipment was stop gaps to ward off the attrition of traveling 30+ hexes.

I think it's odd that the primary caverns weren't trade routes full of drow merchant ventures and their allies. The secondary and tertiary tunnels should have been filled with the kinds of adversaries and unlikely allies that preyed on the drow. There is zero opportunity to learn anything about what lies ahead. The ecology of the place makes no sense when compared to adventures that weren't designed for tournaments.
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Blicero
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Is violence written as the assumed interaction between the PCs and the drow/kuo-toa/etc? Are there meaningful references to morale checks and fleeing?
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Harshax
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Blicero wrote:
Is violence written as the assumed interaction between the PCs and the drow/kuo-toa/etc? Are there meaningful references to morale checks and fleeing?


On my only playthrough, our party scavenged equipment to camouflage our gear so we could go unnoticed. We used illusions to mask our physical appearance and spells to communicate with some of the creatures encountered. Bribed some humanoids to act like our entourage. Couldn't get past the secret hand-language of the Drow though, so there was still a lot of violence. We didn't really get the whole main-tunnel as a underground highway and wasted a lot of time in some side passages.

IIRC, the morale for the Drow were exceedingly high. Then again, our DM didn't use the morale rules as written so most fights continued to the last man.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

No details are given for how to handle any of the random encounters. It's not like D&D3 where they gave power-up suites for encounters. The only real guidance we have is:
Quote:
Note that encountered monsters will act/react with intelligence and organization commensurate with their mentality and social development. This is especially applicable with respect to the ancient race of KueToa People (also detailed fully in a separate section at the end of the module), who have a highly structured and complex society within their shrine area.


Encounter Area W27
The first set-piece is where the PCs cross the Svartjet River; it is 80 feet deep and the sole barge allowing passage is poled by a large rogue Kuo-Toa who is "quite chaotic and a bit insane."


PCs: "How insane?"
MC: "He is not housebroken."


Quote:
Heis 13th level for purposes of attack and saving throws. He moves at normal monitor speed (18”) and attacks 4 times per round (2x4-10, 2x2-5 biting), always to kill. Thoopshib may be unbalanced, but he is very sly. Normally, any creature acquainted with his service will whistle or call for service, pay a fee of 1 p.p. (or its equivalent),and be ferried across. The solitary Kuo-Toan does not care who or what he transports. If the barge is threatened or attacked, he will leap into the Svartjet and summon his only companion, a giant gar over 30 long with AC 2 and 65 hit points. It stays just upstream from the crossing area, and if it is urged on by Thoopshib. It has a
I5%/round chance of upsetting the barge. The gar will bite for 7-28 h.p. of damage 80% of the time anyone is in the water there, 25% if walking on the water, and only 10% if levitating or flying up to 20‘ above the water.


This is actually pretty typical of later set-piece encounters, where the specific combination of tactics and environment come together to create a unique challenge for the player characters. They do not, of course, have to fight the Kuo-Toa, who is just as fucking happy to take their money and do his job. But provisions are made for if the PCs want to kill him (and his pet) and steal his shit. I admit some of the finger points of this encounter are lost on me - why don't the PCs just swim, or cross somewhere else, or whatever. Fording is generally out of the question given the depth. The Kuo-Toa is, of course, on the other side of the river initially, which puts him out of the range of most of the PCs' magic and ranged attacks and sneak attacks.

Quote:
The noise of the river will mask normal sounds from the hearing of the Kuo-Toan, but bright light in the cavern will certainly attract his attention. He will come forth and offer in the common speech of the underworld to take the party across for the proper fee each. Each time he repeats this offer (and it will not be understood by the party without magical aid or an interpreter), he has a 10% cumulative chance of going berserk and attacking.



Just so people are clear here: the PCs (six, 9th-level or equivalent) have probably already had an encounter or two. They're underground, far from home, don't speak the language, relying on eating whatever they catch, possibly responsible for a couple dozen slaves at this point, and likely not in the best of condition. Even if they rested for the night and got their spells and 1-3 hp back, they haven't shaved and they had to piss behind a stalagmite. Then they hit the river.

It's a broad river, and a deep river, and a relatively fast-moving river, and it's all fucking dark. They can either pay up (assuming that they don't insult the insane fishman for not speaking Undercommon, who would presumably go into a beserker rage and angrily scull towards them for six rounds), or fight. And if they fight, he is nominally 13th-level equivalent...but there's only one of him (minus the giant fish). If they get him on dry ground, they have the numbers. Some of them might just want to do it for shits and giggles.

I think, as much as anything, the physical challenges are more important than MalkFish here. Because a canny Mister Cavern will just let the PCs fucking rot on their side of the river and try to figure out how to get across. Good luck with that! (Also, it occurs to me that I have no idea if the Svartjet is freshwater, brackish, or brine.)

Quote:
When Thoopshib sculls the barge, it will take him only 6 rounds to travel directly across to moor the barge in the opposite bank cove. If others scull the craft, it will take twice that long, they will move diagonally downstream, and there will be no possibility of mooring the barge, so it will be carried off downstream by the current after disembarkation. If he is somehow forced to take a party across, Thoopshib will leap into the Svartjet in midstream, taking the sculling oar with him, and seek his giant gar friend. The barge will be carried downstream at a rate of 9 miles per hour. There is 70% chance that the vessel will ground at hex B224, but failing that it will continue at an average speed of 5 miles per hour all the way to the Sunless Sea. Travel upriver in the barge is impossible. It is not possible to walk along the riverside.

This is, basically, the classic "boxing" of a play area at work. Works well in a dungeon, doesn't come across as too unnatural in an underground tunnel system, but can swiftly get tedious when it blocks off a lot of alternatives. The fact that the PCs have zero percent chance of speaking Undercommon is weird to me, but I guess this was before they really nailed down all the languages in AD&D.

Presuming you don't get whisked far off course down the underground river to the Sunless Sea, getting to the other shore puts you only a few miles away from Encounter Area A2-31, which is the big one for this module. Like, literally the entire rest of the module. The eponymous Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. I have no idea why the Shrine is four miles from the nearest river and away from the major trade routes - you would think the Deep Gnomes at least would have built a working ferry instead of relying on a raging, hormonal fish-man to get them across - but there you have it. So next post is the big one!


Lobster tits!
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Voss
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
The fact that the PCs have zero percent chance of speaking Undercommon is weird to me, but I guess this was before they really nailed down all the languages in AD&D.

This series basically nailed down the Underdark as a place with languages and a society (fucked up as it was). There wasn't any chance of learning 'Undercommon,' because the place and concept didn't exist at all prior to this adventure series.

The most likely solution to this encounter was one of the pre-gens had tongues prepared. Or, more likely by that point, didn't, and the party was fucked. Especially if they came off the previous module, which had multiple caves filled with trolls so would have been pretty well conditioned to prioritize fireball over talking to random fucks.

Seriously, six different caves, with 8 to 18 trolls each, plus several other caves packed with bugbears, and a small handful with the eponymous troglodytes. Seriously, why D1 was named Warrens of the Troglodytes is a big mystery, there aren't many of them, and they're a major step down from the fire giants in the module before that.

Harshax wrote:
Upgrades weren't obvious or specifically advertised as such in most D&D modules, except when you and the rogue got medals places around your neck while the Wookiee complained unintelligibly about being left out. The whole point of drow equipment was stop gaps to ward off the attrition of traveling 30+ hexes.


I honestly don't know why you think this.
First, upgrades were pretty obvious (when they weren't traps). They were either on enemies or conveniently stored in treasure piles or chests. On enemies was prefered, because it increased the likelihood they weren't traps. Detect Magic and Identify were spells you had and used.
Also, seriously, Greyhawking. It's a verb for a reason, and Gygax went out his way to stash piles of treasure fucking everywhere, particularly inside mundane things, so checking literally everything (and breaking shit open) for magic was generally rewarded and reinforced behaviorally.

But that wasn't what Drow Equipment was for. That existed so the DM could toss mirror matches (with a magic resistance edge) at the party and not have to worry about giving them real equipment upgrades.

It certainly wasn't to ward off 'attrition,' as D&D gear generally doesn't break, and the various random encounters and the previous module offer fuck-all in the way of consumables, except for a railroad encounter belonging to a level 9 cleric and her many friends (which has a few scrolls), and a 20th level lich that is a complete TPK if the party ignores the layers of warnings.



This series is a great insight regarding the thinking of the time. Not sure if it was in the original D1 or D2 (I just have the combined Queen of Spiders reprint which jams the whole GDQ series together), but this is the advice for DMs at the beginning:
Fuckin' Gygax wrote:
Do not penalize the party if they take sensible steps (!) to insure a successful adventure, such as deciding to take a number of pack mules to carry supplies and equipment- even an extra spellbook (this, apparently, would normally be considered crossing some sort of line). As always, be as fair and unbiased as possible. Neither help by suggestion or inference nor hinder in any manner not called for (translation:assume your players are expert spelunkers, and fuck their characters for not being prepared if they aren't) Managing a party with mules can be trying for a referee, but it is probable that these beasts will be slain at the first encounter anyway. It might inconvenience you slightly, but you'll be able to savor your revenge

Yeah. Don't specifically fuck the party for smart planning (because that actually needed to be explained at the time), you can just destroy their precautions outright at the very first opportunity. Thanks, Gary!
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amethal
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
Nothing. It says nothing. Entirely up to Mister Cavern, I guess. The PCs could be taking their swag back up to the surface and it just rots off in a couple of weeks.
I seem to remember that Unearthed Arcana (1985) had "playable" Drow, and that the Drow equipment rotting rules were mentioned there. Not much help in 1978, of course.

(By "playable" I mean they were in the book as a PC race. In practice, large chunks of that book was banned at my table, even though as a young teenager I was hardly their most discerning customer.)
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Harshax
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:

Harshax wrote:
Upgrades weren't obvious or specifically advertised as such in most D&D modules, except when you and the rogue got medals places around your neck while the Wookiee complained unintelligibly about being left out. The whole point of drow equipment was stop gaps to ward off the attrition of traveling 30+ hexes.


I honestly don't know why you think this.
First, upgrades were pretty obvious (when they weren't traps). They were either on enemies or conveniently stored in treasure piles or chests. On enemies was prefered, because it increased the likelihood they weren't traps. Detect Magic and Identify were spells you had and used.


Identify doesn't explicitly tell you want a magic item does. The spell used 100gp pearls. Identify requires multiple segments of concentration and then only gives you general sense of an items ability. The spell had to be cast on an item within one hour/CL of acquiring it. It cost 8 points of temporary CON damage to use and that was recovered at the rate of 1pt/hour.

There a few magic items that don't radiate magic. There are spells that can be used to plant a false aura on otherwise mundane items.

Cursed items almost always foiled Identify and detected or behaved like a useful magic item for some time until the curse revealed itself. Cursed items seemed to be in every published adventure. So, no. Finding, identifying and using treasure in D&D was always a crap-shoot. You didn't really start accurately identifying items until Legend Lore or Contact Lower Plane. You almost never knew how many charges items had and the only way to really know what items did was through meticulous observation or appealing to a DM who eventually got tired of keeping your secret character sheet behind the screen and factoring in all the bonuses your magic equipment granted you.

That's more or less the RAW.

Now let's take the module for what it is ...

You're literally traveling to another world, deep underground, with its own physical properties (mysterious radiation), alien life forms and ecology. The Drow are this ultra-advanced banished people, where even their dweebs have the equivalent of +1 Chainmail, daggers and sword. They can all Blind you with darkness, poison you with crossbow bolts, resist spells with innate Magic Resistance or their general +2 Saving Throws, dual wield for 2 attacks per round without penalty, have many of the same abilities as elves and dwarves and are stealthy as hell. They're are fucking scary and you should be scared.

The Drow can't dominate the surface because all their cool shit (including their natural abilities) is dependent on exposure to radiation. It justifies why they're working with Giants and Slavers in the first place and not simply strolling up to the surface, group casting a giant Darkness spell into the atmosphere and making everybody around them their prison-wives.

Surface dwellers don't have the industrial capability to crank out the same amount of magic gear that the Drow can. They can't habitually raid the underground with any level of certainty of success because every drow encountered is a fucking adventuring party with multi-classed spell casters and up to +5 gear and most spoils of war are completely useless after a time when brought to the surface.

Face it. You're at war: deep underground, behind enemy lines and far away from home. Every encounter with the Drow is going to hurt. Your retinue of retainers will be completely outclassed by their rank-and-file. At one point in the module (the river), you'll be completely cutoff from most avenues of egress. There's no opportunity to replenish your ranks except by making allies and even they are just scrubs compared to the main enemy. You need to upgrade your guys with gear to mount any successful assault. There's just not enough magic items on the surface to uniformly outfit any troops you brought with you. Even if there were, the logistics of scavenging them from surface dungeons, then obtaining enough pearls and healthy magic-users to inventory all of it with any certainty is enough to make most gamers rage quit and go play Atari instead.

Scavenging gear from the Drow was a way to illustrate their might and majesty, who by every interesting cultural measure at the time were depicted as polar opposites of any society on the surface, gear up a force to give your side any meaningful chance of success and not flood the game with so much magic that it ruined the surface economy.

Anyway, that's how we saw it back in the 80's.
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talozin
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:

Fuckin' Gygax wrote:
Neither help by suggestion or inference nor hinder in any manner not called for (translation:assume your players are expert spelunkers, and fuck their characters for not being prepared if they aren't)


I think that's a bit of a tendentious reading. It would be equally plausible to assume that "help by suggestion or inference" is "called for" if some members of the party are characterized as expert spelunkers, but their players are clueless.

But really this just further points up maybe the biggest problem with Gygax as author (leaving aside the problems with Gygax as game designer): he loves the sound of his own authorial voice way too much. He'd rather be convoluted and magisterial than clear and comprehensible, any day of the week. His prose is kind of fun to read if you can get past how purple and self-consciously erudite it is, but he makes it far too difficult to figure out exactly what he's driving at. Which is a devastating flaw when you're trying to explain how a roleplaying game is supposed to work to people who have basically no cultural exposure to the concept of roleplaying games. It's frankly not a great flaw to have even if you were a game designer writing today, when there are people out there who are third-generation RPG players.

I read Gygax's various screeds as formative Mister Caverning material, mostly because there wasn't a whole lot else at the time, and what I got out of them is that your goal is to make it hard enough on the party to be a challenge while staying within the rules. But a whole fuckton of people read the same things I did and formed the impression that their goal was to fuck the players good and hard if they weren't smart enough to read your mind, so either they were right and he was a massive asshole and my reading comprehension sucked, or they were wrong and he was shit at writing clearly.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Its pretty trivially obviously both. He was shit at writing clearly, AND the goal was fucking players good and hard.


@Harshax- not sure who that 'we' is supposed to be. It certainly wasn't a universal view for 'the 80's.' Taking 'guys' or 'a force' on this adventure wasn't the assumption- this was designed as a tournament module, and your 6 odd adventurers were all you had. Having shitloads of drow gear was pretty much fucking irrelevant once the party had decent kit (which at 9th they should have had going in).

Quote:
Every encounter with the Drow is going to hurt.

So what? You rope tricked up in a hole and healed/replenished spells and went to the next set of fights fresh. You're bringing in a weird sense of real-world attrition into D&D that doesn't fit at all. As long as your casters live, and you don't get hit with anything too weird, nothing that happens to you matters long term.
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Harshax
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Voss wrote:

@Harshax- not sure who that 'we' is supposed to be. It certainly wasn't a universal view for 'the 80's.' Taking 'guys' or 'a force' on this adventure wasn't the assumption- this was designed as a tournament module, and your 6 odd adventurers were all you had. Having shitloads of drow gear was pretty much fucking irrelevant once the party had decent kit (which at 9th they should have had going in).


Never played this as a tournament module, but with actual PCs. Having an entourage of hired hands was a pretty common thing at a lot of AD&D tables that I attended.

Voss wrote:

Quote:
Every encounter with the Drow is going to hurt.

So what? You rope tricked up in a hole and healed/replenished spells and went to the next set of fights fresh. You're bringing in a weird sense of real-world attrition into D&D that doesn't fit at all. As long as your casters live, and you don't get hit with anything too weird, nothing that happens to you matters long term.


Rope trick didn't last nearly long enough to do what you're describing. 2 turns/level - You'd have to have been a 24th Magic-User to have a rope-trick last for an entire rest/recovery cycle. It's easy to refute my analysis, if you're just going to hand wave challenges and not engage the material.

Also, having a real-world understanding of tactics was not only encouraged in the rules and in The Dragon, it was rewarded. Most tables I played at were filled with wargamers and it's just absurd to pretend that style of play didn't exist or wasn't at least prominent in gaming circles of the 80s.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Encounter Area A2-31
Sorry for the delay on this one, got home after work yesterday completely knackered and slept through to the next morning.



Quote:
Use encounter piece V when this area is reached. Describe the multitude of openings available to the party, and indicate that this area is faintly lit by the glowing lichens and phosphorescent streaks of mineral in the walls of the passageway. They will not see any creatures or hear any noise, but there are 8 Deep Gnomes (as described previously under random encounters) watching them from hiding. If the party stops and searches the area-or calls out in friendly terms-the Svitfnebli leader will show himself and offer the peace sign, recognizing the party as creatures from the upper world. He will converse in sign language, or speak normally if some magical means of communication/understanding is available. If the adventurers offer not fewer than 1,100 g.p. gem per Deep Gnome, and agree to going "halfies" on any others taken, the Svirfnebli will certainly agree to accompany the party to the shrine cavern.




Aside from the dick move of assuming the PCs can't detect the Deep Gnomes, what are the odds that a random humanoid approaches you underground making strange gestures and you don't attack? Also, how do you communicate "halfsies" in rudimentary sign language?

The Deep Gnomes are hereditary enemies of the Kuo-Toa and Drow, and having finished mining out a vein of gems, are now willing to join forces to raid their foes for more. So...basically, they want to go a-viking with you. The leader is Trosli Garnetgetter, who can summon a big-ass earth elemental once a day, but doesn't want to do it because he's a stingy bastard.


3/20 chance of rolling a xorn!

Quote:
Each of these Svitfnebli has a small tablet compounded of special minerals which restores 4 hit points of damage, while their leader has a full dozen extra of these curatives. Trosli Garnetgetter also has a pouch containing 6 large stones which shatter and release an obscuring gas (15' diameter cloud, 10' high) when smashed by hurling against a hard surface, as well as 4 yellowish rocks which release poison gas in a similar cloud when smashed.


This is all stuff that would have been nice if it was standard equipment. I mean, it's okay if you can't buy it at character creation or on the surface, but this is the kind of incidental bullshit that's just sort of...forgotten. Pops up in adventures and then is never mentioned again ever.

From here, we go straight into the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. This is a straight-up dungeon crawl, albeit a dungeon with hallways and armed guards and shit. Map for the curious.

The flavor text is worked directly into the description, so you get entries like:
Quote:
ENTRANCE TO THE LOW CAVITY: The paw is met by a chilling scene when first they step far enough northwest to view the dimly lit space ahead. Greenish phosphorescence from lichens, coupled with a grayish luminosity from slug-like creatures as large as a man's fist which crawl everywhere (walls, ceilings, floors) give the area an undersea appearance, and a strange salt tang is in the air to enhance this impression. Directly to the north the adventurers will see a huge dark green creature, rather like a giant lobster-headed woman, with one pincer raised and the right extended ahead and open. This stone idol is detailed at 4. below. The walls and pavement of this place are well-made, but very worn. Obviously, this area is old. It feels alien and foreboding. The shape of the stones and the illumination of the area are
wrong to any creatures from the upper world, particularly warm-blooded ones. A glance left and right will reveal the archway to the west and the 20' wide, 40' high opening leading east.


At this point, the most interesting bit is:
Quote:
At this point any intelligent creatures observing the paw will ignore it. This is a place where traffic is not uncommon, and those entering are permitted to approach the shrine and make obeisance to Sea Mother, obtain the required "passes", and move on. (See 3. below.) The shrine community is organized only with respect to its guards and heirarchy. not its pilgrims or passersby.


Yeah...this isn't an abandoned temple to a forgotten god out in the boonies. It's a pilgrimage site on a well-trafficked underworld trade route, and the fucking Kuo-Toa operate a tollbooth. This is a bit like wandering into Ellis Island and trying to bust the place up. I'm genuinely not clear on what the PCs are expected to do here, because starting a straight fight with the guards seems like a really bad fucking idea, even with their gnome commando allies. Maybe you're supposed to reconnoiter a bit first? Send the thief in, let them map the fucking place or something.

Quote:
Blibdoolpoolp, pronounced Blibbb - doool - pooolpp

Also, they repeat this a couple times, just so you get the fish noises down right, but they still left it as "Barrracks" through multiple printings.

As is pretty typical for Gygax, some considerable thought went into the low-probability possibilities of this adventure. For example, if your party reaches the Idol:
Quote:
Blibdoolpoolp's name is carved into the base of the statue in Kuo-Toon characters. If the extended left claw is grasped while the individual stands upon the altar, and her name is pronounced correctly (Blibbb - doool - pooolpp), the creature is immediately transported to deep waters of the plane where Sea Mother holds court. (If the individual cannot breathe water, he, she, or it is immediately in Blibdoolpoolp's debt for having the goddess save the individual from drowning by magic spell.) The individual coming before Sea Mother must offer the goddess from 10,000 to 60,000 g.p, value in pearls, or double that amount in gems, or risk the wrath of Blibdoolpoolp. She will grant a small favor to the individual making an offering, and then return the individual to the altar before her idol. Those without offerings are geas/quested not to harm or cause to be harmed or aid in the harming of any worshippers of Sea Mother. They must further contribute 60,000 g.p. value in gems to the shrine (or bring in a number of Drow whose combined levels equals 1/100th of the g.p. value for sacrifice-Blibdoolpoolp hates the Dark Elves, but cannot oppose their patroness and other helpers directly!). The individuals are then returned to the altar, with the ability to speak Kuo-Toan and marked secretly so that all the Kuo-Toa People will recognize one in the service of Blibdoolpoolp.

This is probably the secret best case scenario short of straight up genocide or a party of thieves ripping the temple off blind, since you're going to be defiling the shrine anyway, and this way you end up on the Special Kuo-Toan No Murder List and get to read/write/speak Kuo-Toan and it advances the story by giving you further reason to go get some Drow! Hell, I'd probably have some wilely old Kuo-Toa Monitor get the PCs to do it anyway - worse comes to worst, the Sea Mother eats them.



If the PCs go too far into the shrine complex, they run into the throne room of the Priest-Prince Va-Guulgh, which is guarded by 6 Kuo-Toa priest-assassins who are 6th-level clerics/6th-level assassins. That's not a good day for anybody, but if the PCs do win the priest-prince has some sweet loot

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


There's also the slave quarters, for if the PCs that want to play Spartacus.
Quote:
The western room holds 3 gnolls, 1 half-orc, 2 hobgoblins, 2 lizardmen, 9 orcs, and 8 trogs. The eastern chamber contains 2 dwarves, 3 Deep Gnomes, and 21 humans (one ofwhom is a 7th level paladin with 175, 141, 16W, 17D. 17C, and 15Ch - H.P.: 60). All slaves are fairly well acquainted with the normal parts of the shrine cavern, especially the orcs and Deep Gnomes. Freed slaves will happily kill Kuo-Toans; whether or not they will help liberators directly is a function of alignment and treatment as well as initial reaction


Quote:
The large room to the west is a standard torture chamber, with the usual rack, iron boot, chains, irons, etc.

"Standard"? Is this just a part of the building code? "Yeah, we have to have one full bath for ever four rooms, a kitchenette, and a torture chamber with the standard appliances."

While nominally a "shrine," this place is really a small Kuo-Toa community in full Dwarf Fortress mode with its meditation chambers, training rooms, breeding pool ("This is where the Kuo-loan females lay their eggs, and the males then fertilize them with milt. [...] There are presently 4 females and 11 males spawning."), fingerlings pool, royal spawning pool ("Only the ruler of the shrine area and his concubines may use this pool"), royal fingerling pool, guardroom, seraglio ("The 6 concubines of the priest-prince dwell here. They are indolent and pampered, and they will not fight."), guard quarters, armory, storage chambers, secret passages, and an impressive library (1,786 various folios, scrolls, books, and collections in Kuo-Toon and Drowic). The library has a secret compartment hidden in there with...ah, let me spoil it.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


...which is really just a fuck you wrapped inside a mystery, inside an enigma, inside a burrito that will send you to the Elemental Plane of Fire if opened.


Also, not present: kitchens, stables, bathrooms (!) - c'mon, at least the slave quarter needs a Little Drow's Room - etc. The usual things that are quietly left out of set-pieces and dungeons.

While I would find it hilarious if the PCs seduce the Priest-Prince's harem or something, what the PCs are probably hoping for is to find and break into the secret treasure-room which only the Priest-Prince knows about, which is filled with trapped treasure chests full of the wealth of decades of offerings and taxation. More than the PCs could plausibly carry forward on the next stage of their journey unless they had a couple bags of holding.

Also, subplot: the Kuo-Toa are holding a female drow 9th-level fighter named Derinnil in durance vile (torture is scheduled next Tuesday, apparently; maybe they want to have the slaves give the iron boot a good polish for their guest). Because of course the Kuo-Toa trust the Drow about as far as they can sacrifice them to the Sea Mother. Derinnil, for her part:

Quote:
She will volunteer to aid and guide rescuers, but she will, of course, betray them at first opportunity.


Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


But to even get to her you have to kill or bypass a shitload of fishmen cleric/assassins, so maybe not the top of the priority list.

Quote:
FINAL NOTE TO DUNGEON MASTER

If you are using this module as a part of the whole campaign, be certain to keep a careful note of all that the party does. You can do this by writing on the margin of this booklet. Any opponents which escape attack by the party will give warning to their masters or fellows if possible-particularly Drow, Kuo-Toans, and their more intelligent servants. However, the chaotic nature of the Dark Elves precludes the chance of organized search for the party. so at best the Drow will be aware of intruders and more watchful and suspicious. The Kuo-Toans are not numerous enough to mount a major search effort.

If the party is moving on to the next module, cease play in this one as soon as they pass into one of the northern tunnels, and begin with the next package.

THIS ENDS THE SECOND SECTION OF THE DESCENT INTO THE DEPTHS, SHRINE OF THE KUO-TOA


That being said, there's still like nine more pages left. Honestly, this is very sandbox-y: you've got a shitload of rooms, guards, and treasure, and the PCs are left to their own devices. If they're clever (or just pay the goddamn toll and move on), they could be through this place in a couple hours, a few hundred g.p. the poorer.

As a dungeon, the shrine is...well, I hope you somehow levelled up coming to this place, because the Deep Gnomes' scooby snacks are not going to cut it.

Next up: Whatever's left.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It doesn't sound quite as bad as other early modules that I've read, such as Tomb of Horrors. Only two obscure death traps based on player actions and completely unpredictable. Overall difficulty sounds off-balance though, and looking at the map, that is definitely an endurance test dungeon.

As an aside, why is there so much nostalgia for early-modules like Tomb of Horrors? Is it just nostalgia goggles, because on a read it sounds like a plethora of middle fingers given to the players in terms of unavoidable deathtraps, a chance to not even discover it, and of course fostering uncontrollable paranoia on the players for months after. For evry little gain at that as well. Is it just because people go in knowing the entire party will die over and over again?
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

saithorthepyro wrote:
Only two obscure death traps based on player actions and completely unpredictable.

More than that, but I didn't want to go through every trapped chest in the secret treasure-room.

Quote:
Overall difficulty sounds off-balance though, and looking at the map, that is definitely an endurance test dungeon.

I rather think this is a race module; in a tourney you'd have a set amount of time, and you're not expected to turn over every rock. If you aimed to get from point A to point B in an hour or two, you could conceivably do it if the fights don't last too long.

Quote:
As an aside, why is there so much nostalgia for early-modules like Tomb of Horrors? Is it just nostalgia goggles, because on a read it sounds like a plethora of middle fingers given to the players in terms of unavoidable deathtraps, a chance to not even discover it, and of course fostering uncontrollable paranoia on the players for months after. For evry little gain at that as well. Is it just because people go in knowing the entire party will die over and over again?

Conga-line-of-death is unusual except for set-pieces like the Tomb of Horrors. Nostalgia accounts for a lot of it - these adventures were published and republished, inspired sequels and prequels and side-quests and were parts of entire campaigns, often the first campaigns that players or DMs would ever experience. So they obtain - sometimes without merit - a sort of legendary status.
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saithorthepyro
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
saithorthepyro wrote:
Only two obscure death traps based on player actions and completely unpredictable.

More than that, but I didn't want to go through every trapped chest in the secret treasure-room.

Quote:
Overall difficulty sounds off-balance though, and looking at the map, that is definitely an endurance test dungeon.

I rather think this is a race module; in a tourney you'd have a set amount of time, and you're not expected to turn over every rock. If you aimed to get from point A to point B in an hour or two, you could conceivably do it if the fights don't last too long.

Quote:
As an aside, why is there so much nostalgia for early-modules like Tomb of Horrors? Is it just nostalgia goggles, because on a read it sounds like a plethora of middle fingers given to the players in terms of unavoidable deathtraps, a chance to not even discover it, and of course fostering uncontrollable paranoia on the players for months after. For evry little gain at that as well. Is it just because people go in knowing the entire party will die over and over again?

Conga-line-of-death is unusual except for set-pieces like the Tomb of Horrors. Nostalgia accounts for a lot of it - these adventures were published and republished, inspired sequels and prequels and side-quests and were parts of entire campaigns, often the first campaigns that players or DMs would ever experience. So they obtain - sometimes without merit - a sort of legendary status.


I'll retroactively remove the given points then. Race-style gameplay does make some sense, the map is not extremely maze-like.

Is there any early modules that managed to avoid the conga-line of death/loads of player hate trap that most fell into?
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Not while Gary Gygax was writing them. I want to say Against the Cult of the Reptile God was a pretty decent introductory adventure.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Kuo-Toa
Look, this adventure doesn't have clearly-defined appendices, or a table of contents, or any of that fancy shit. This is coming to you raw, unfiltered, barely proofread, hot from Gary's throbbing word processor to your virgin eyes. So barely have we left behind the finer details of the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa than we get...a multi-page Monstrous Manual entry for the Kuo-Toa.


Quote:
The ancient Kuo-Toa People once inhabited the shores and islands of the upper world. As the race of mankind and its associate species grew more and more numerous and powerful, the men-fish were slowly driven to remote regions. Continual warfare upon these evil, human-sacrificing creatures threatened to totally exterminate the species, for a number of powerful beings were aiding their sworn enemies, mankind. Some Kou-Toans sought refuge in sea caverns and secret subterranean waters, and while their fellows above were being slaughtered, these few prospered and developed new characteristics to match their lightless habitats. However, the seas contained other fierce and evil creatures with designs of their own, and the deep dwelling Kuo-Toans were eventually wiped out, leaving only those in the underworld to carry on. These survivors were unknown to men, and mankind eventually forgot the men-fish entirely. Even the word goggler, a term used derisively for their ichthyoid foes, lost its meaning. But the Kuo-Toa People remaining in their underworld places did not allow memory of the past to lapse, and woe to the hapless human who falls into the slimy clutches of the Kuo-Toans!


This is, perhaps not surprisingly, not too far out from Late Age Atlantis in Dominions IV, where you don't even start out in the goddamned water. It neatly explains why the Kuo-Toa in this module are a) underground, and b) not underwater, but it doesn't really explain...well, why they are not underwater. I mean, it's not like the Illithids had underwater underground cities at this point. Even the aboleths and ixitxachitl hadn't happened yet, so what the fuck did Gygax think chased these poor bastards out of the dark waters?

Segue!
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


This is also the old-school MM style entry where you feel like you might be rolling up an entire community; there's description on how they spawn, and a large table of hit points vs. level which is divided by male and female, because the Kuo-Toa are sexually dimorphic (and females cap out at 8th level, which is bullshit.) There's also a separate table to generate the slaves they own (no more than 1 per 4 Kuo-Toa), so this is really just Gary getting his Gygax on.



Then he does the same thing for Svirfnebli (singular Svirfneblin), aka Deep Gnomes. Some highlights:

Quote:
The Svirfnebli communicate with each other by a form of racial empathy when outside their own domains. They have their own language, a dialect of gnomish which a normal gnome is 60% likely to understand.


I like to imagine that Deep Gnomes sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

Quote:
Deep Gnomes have infravision to 120' and can also see into the ultraviolet spectrum in a limited manner (30'). They have normal gnomish powers with respect to determination of direction, distance beneath the surface, and detection of traps.


I briefly forgot ultravision was still a thing.

...this is weirdly abrupt after the Kuo-Toa got several pages; maybe Gary was running out of room.

Then there's the maps and...that's it.

Shrine of the Kuo-Toa is a weird standalone module. It's very much an in-between chapter in an ongoing campaign. As mentioned above, it works in a tourney if you play it as a race/running battle to get from point A to point B; as a standalone, it lacks enough distinct encounters to really stand-out - random encounter tables are fun, but not actually a replacement for an actual adventure.

The Shrine itself is, I feel, way too hard for a group of six 9th-level characters, even with Deep Gnome allies. Maybe if the PCs had gnome from the beginning that they were basically murder-hoboing it, they'd work up a plan, do proper reconnaissance, and do a proper bit of viking slaughter and be off with all their platinum and pearls. I kind of like that so much of the shrine has been fleshed out, but at the same time...it doesn't feel like it's fleshed out enough. Definitely an uphill challenge for any party that can't out-assassin the cleric-assassins.
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Shrapnel
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Heheh... "if the PCs had gnome from the beginning..." Nice.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've never seen anyone play a gnome, they're always halflungs for dex dwarves for beards or elves for innate magic
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Um...am I the only one who had to stop and look twice at that picture of the Kuo-Toa?

Also, the gnomes can see in UV? What is actually generating UV down underground though?
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ultravision was a thing in AD&D 1e, and was subsequently dropped in 2e when people remembered how fucking stupid it was.
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