Dust jacket cleared! And my favorite adventure is...my own
Another milestone cleared! We're past the next stretch goal, so both hardcovers will now be printed with dust jackets. Cool!
There are about 150 new backers today. Greetings everyone! Nice to have you here.
"Favorite Adventure" Essays
Over the past several weeks, we have published a lot of essays about "favorite adventures." The contributors to this project are all great adventure designers who have in turn been inspired by the adventures that came before them. As one of the features of this Kickstarter, we asked them to describe their favorite adventure modules, and what they've learned from them. So far, the designers of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck have contributed their thoughts on all of these adventures:
- The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
- Secret of the Slavers Stockade
- Castle Amber
- Desert of Desolation
- Against the Giants
- The sample dungeon in the back of the DMG
- Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
- The Caverns of Thracia
- The first campaign
- An unknown solitaire adventure
- Playtesting a Legend, including Isle of the Ape
- The Random Dungeon Generator in the DMG
- G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and B1: In Search of the Unknown
Today we continue this series with Chris Clarke's favorite adventure. It happens to be one he wrote himself - and you can't read it yourself because it's not available for sale. But the way he tells the story, you'll learn a lot about baiting your players in your adventure design...
My All-Timey Favoritest Adventure Ever
By Chris Clark
Let me begin by saying: I am biased, as is any analog, non-digital entity. I know what I like, and in most cases, I know why I like it. That does not mean that you will share my viewpoint, or should, or even that perhaps you should quietly call in some professional psychiatric assistance for prevalent narcissism. In fairness, however, I do like my own ‘stuff’. If I didn’t like it, I’d never let it out of my office, and yes, that’s happened more than a few times.
I do have a lot of favorites from the years that I spent ‘growing up’ in gaming. I started playing AD&D 1st Ed. back in 1975, and I did not start writing my own adventures for several years. During that period I was blessed with exposure to an immense scope of ideas, from the utter terror of S1 and the Tomb of the Lich, to the G-series Giants and the Caverns of the Drow in the D-series. From that era I have to say that I was most impressed, and am as yet most easily persuaded to once again Dungeon Master, T1 The Village of Hommlet. Its characters make sense, it has subplots that are logical, numerous, and surprising and yet, in the end, it comes down to a dungeon crawl upon which all else hinges. In a word: masterwork. Thanks Gary.
Yet this adventure would not be the last one saved if I were to be sent away with but one to while away the hours in some dank prison. It is not the adventure for which I would forgo meals, companionship, or beloved pets. That accolade I reserve for a module I wrote for Gary Con back in 2012. Only one copy of the adventure was created, in full TSR trade dress (it looked exactly like a TSR publication). Full publication of that adventure would have caused numerous violations of copyright and trademark law.
I did warn you of my bias.
I therefore do not expect that anyone reading this has ever heard of (unless you played in one of my events that year) the adventure that tops my all-time-favorite list, The False Prints. I am still writing adventures, and so may surpass myself, as may any of the extremely talented writers out there currently creating new adventures, worlds, and challenges, but this, thus far, is my personal best. It also best matches my play style, one that I adapted from my good friend James M. Ward: let the characters kill themselves; don’t be the reason that they died, even as adventure designer.
I am known for writing adventures with multiple meanings: A Challenge of Arm’s actually has within a character named, ‘the Arm’, Holey Ground is an adventure situated in an area of subterranean subsidence where the party is dumped into a blessed mine, A Problem of Manors is both about a rude robotic servant and a manor that has been enslaved by said robot, Seizun of the Son … you get the drift.
The False Prints is no exception. A king discovers that his Grand Vizier has been kidnapping young virginal girls and selling them to demons under the cover of a beauty pageant every year. The vizier kills the king in order to hide his crimes from the citizenry, and leaves a trail of clues that implicate the local assassin’s guild, The Black Hand. The vizier has a problem this year, however, as the local populace has run out of virgins that his demonic customers might consider to be ‘of age.’ In point of fact, only one such virgin is available, and he is the wrong sex: the young orphaned prince soon to be crowned king.
The vizier then hatches a tremendously complex plan with absolute precision. He acquires a gender changing potion for the prince as well as some appropriate (in size and style) clothing and a nice set of wigs to fit the soon-to-be-victimized prince. He has a secret tunnel dug from the keep’s dungeon to the prince’s private chamber and then has the workmen who created it killed so that he might gain clandestine access to the quarters of the prince.
He bribes the members of the Black Hand Guild to smooth things over after suspicion falls upon them, and then hires several of their members to attack the prince two nights hence at a local inn. The vizier further places contracts on two of the keep’s guards during the intervening two days, and asks the guild to leave their calling cards so that all will know that the guild has had its revenge upon the kingdom for suspecting them when they were indeed innocent.
The guild, good to their word, murder one guard each day.
The vizier, feigning actual concern, convinces the prince that more guards are needed, but that none of the local hirelings-at-arms may be trusted due to the popularity of the Black Hand. The vizier convinces the prince to hire personal bodyguards from the outside the kingdom, and sets up an interview with these potential guards for the evening following the second guard’s assassination.
The guards being hired are the player characters.
After an opening encounter where the characters are interviewed and subsequently hired, The Black Hand attacks the inn as instructed. The player characters, solid heroes one and all, emerge victorious. The vizier gushes over them, offering them lodging for that very night, a meal, and drinks if they desire. He offers to have the after-combat mess cleaned up for the characters, as, after all, they have done enough already. He offers to have the bodies of the vanquished guild members disposed of, and tells the characters that such is the least he can do.
Every party, with a bit of convincing, consumed some of the refreshments offered by the vizier. Without fail, every party that ever played this adventure felt they had to loot the bodies of the assassins. They refused to let the vizier’s hirelings clean up the aftermath until after such looting was complete. The loot is, of course, extremely worthwhile.
Each player receives a suit of +3 magical black leather armor emblazoned with the sign of the Black Hand Guild, an automatic +2 repeating wrist crossbow that has a magazine of 6 shots, black Leather Boots of Climbing embossed with the sign of the Black Hand Guild, and a +2 short sword the hilt of which is emblazoned with the sign of the Black Hand Guild. There are some coins as well.
The vizier then suggests to the prince that his new, proven guards should perhaps accompany him back to the keep and stand watch over him this evening to thwart any further assassination attempts. The prince, young and timid, readily agrees.
The food and drink consumed by the characters contains a slow-acting but powerful soporific. 4 hours after the party returns (and they all did) to the prince’s chamber to watch over him, the entire party, including the elves (they don’t sleep, but they are not immune to drugs), is asleep. While they sleep, the vizier and his minions enter the prince’s chamber, kidnap the prince, and take him to the dungeon below to begin his transformation into a virginal girl. The then alert the palace guard that “not all is well with the prince.”
Two hours after the prince is taken, the party begins to awaken. The reason for their interrupted slumber is painfully evident: someone is pounding on the bolted chamber door and demanding entrance “in the name of the prince.” The characters are of course accoutered in their shiny new leather armor, with their wrist crossbows, Boots of Climbing, and all other gear that definitively marks them as members of The Black Hand. It is generally about this time that one of the characters remembers that The Black Hand was suspecting for the attempt on the prince, as well as the murder of the king.
The adventure then becomes a grand game of hide and seek. The party must avoid the palace guard that feverishly hunts for them, while tracking down clues that prove their innocence and reveal the current location of the prince they are sworn to protect. The must locate and defeat the vizier and his henchmen before they are arrested for the disappearance of the prince, and possibly the murder of his father. The party always managed to finish victorious in the six times this was run, but is was always close… and always fun.
The best attack always comes from an unexpected direction. Making sure that reasons exist for everything in your adventure leaves your players only one direction of blame: themselves.
No, you can’t buy this one, as only one copy of it exists. Still, it’s definitely my favorite.
Chris Clark is the author of the Inner City, Playin’ in the Streets, Fuzzy Hero and Lance role playing games, the Pitfall dungeon series, A Challenge of Arms, The Ritual of the Golden Eyes (with Gary Gygax), and the Lands of Igpay series of adventures for classic fantasy role playing games. He also penned the Forest of Deceit series (4 adventures), and Rain of Terror for Eldritch Enterprises, is the most prolific author of published Lejendary Adventure scenarios, and has written several science fiction adventures with noted author James M. Ward. Chris has worked with Frank Mentzer, Tim Kask and Gary Gygax on adventures and adventure writing, and has had 26 of his adventures published under various companies and for various role playing systems… and he is far from finished.