Hello everyone! We're about two hours out from the end of the Kickstarter and it's great to see all the new faces!
A final reminder to the 200 new backers today: did you know you can add on items with this Kickstarter? Check out this previous update for details on how to do it.
Two words: Dungeon Alphabet. If you don't already own it, this is a great time to pick it up. And once you're hooked, of course, you'll want the Monster Alphabet. Not sure? Google "Dungeon Alphabet reviews" and see what you're missing!
"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
- The False Prints
- The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
Today we post our last essay in this series. When we asked the authors to send us these essays, the request was open-ended - "tell us about your favorite adventure and how it influenced your adventure design." We didn't specify that the adventure had to be "fantasy" or any other criteria, for that matter. While most of the submissions are classic TSR modules from the 1970's and 1980's, one designer picked a modern adventure to write about. Moreover, he picked a Goodman Games adventure - and specifically one by Chris Doyle, who contributed to this book. Here, then, Bill Olmesdahl to tell us about why he loves Castle Whiterock.
(For those who don't know, Castle Whiterock was #51 in the Dungeon Crawl Classics series. It is a 700-page castle crawl that was originally released as a $100 boxed set under the D&D 3.5 rules set. Reading this essay again is making me nostalgic. Maybe we should convert it to 5E or DCC after all....)
By Bill Olmesdahl
I've been ruminating about which of all the thousands of great adventures written over the last several decades is my favorite. Wow. Where do you start? There are so many legendary modules from the early days of our hobby. Should I talk about The Village of Hommlet? Everyone I know who's played T1 has a story about the gatehouse and those killer frogs. Or maybe I could talk about The Tomb of Horrors. Old time gamers go white when you mention that death trap. How about Ravenloft, the adventure that spawned an entire new TSR world of horror and despair? I could go on and on. I've read, run or played them all over my nearly 40 years as a gamer. At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to butter up Mr. Goodman, my favorite adventure is Goodman Game's Castle Whiterock.
If you're not familiar with Castle Whiterock, it's a MASSIVE boxed dungeon put out at the height of the D&D 3.5 boom as part of the Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventures. The boxed set weighs in at over 700 pages between the various books. But size isn't everything. What's inside is an amazing old school dungeon complete with everything you need to run a game for years!
Why Castle Whiterock? To me, CW has everything I look for in an adventure: Dragons! A Lich! Drow! An entire underwater level! Legendary items and new artifacts! Did I mention dragons? This is what a mega dungeon is supposed to be. It's 15 primary levels plus many sublevels of old school dungeon grinding. I've run three groups into Castle Whiterock (so far, no one has finished the adventure, but I keep hoping) and each time has been unique and memorable in its own way.
Who hates encounters with low level humanoids, like orcs, troglodytes, or even something like bandits? I used to. Most of the time, they're just thrown into a module because there aren't that many other monsters for low level PCs to fight. They become the stereotypical monsters "sitting in the room playing cards" waiting for the PCs to come. Not so in Castle Whiterock. The first half dozen or so levels are primarily humanoids bolstered with a smattering of other foes, but they all have a good reason for being there. The whole thing feels like an ecosystem. And that's no small accomplishment. You've got a campaign that runs characters from level 1 to level 20 and it feels like it could really exist.
The adventure starts out with a bang. The PCs find a group of monks working in the ruins to restore the site, or that's how it seems. If the PCs aren't very clever, very perceptive, or very paranoid, they will find out the hard way that monks are actually slavers working with various groups deeper in the dungeon. In my three runs of the adventure, only one group has not ended the first session as prisoners in the orc dungeon on level two. And that's a great thing. Everyone has had a great time figuring out how to escape and getting to use some of those non-combat skills.
My most recent Castle Whiterock group had an amazing battle against a half orc/half cloud giantess cleric. It was one of those epic fights that the players will be talking about for years to come. The combat raged for more than twenty rounds with the ranger, paladin, druid, and cleric all down. The day was won by the humble oracle and a lucky shot from her bow. But even more amazing is the battle mattered to the party. They knew their foe and had put together her history. They cared about more than loot and experience. They were involved in the story! That's what makes Castle Whiterock special to me. You can't help but start to get caught up in all the stories that run through and link every level and sublevel. It sucks you in and you care about the Who, What, Where, How, and Why. In my experience, that's rare in an off-the-shelf module. That's why I love Castle Whiterock.
Bill Olmesdahl has been a DM and player for almost 40 years. He started writing for West End Games in the 90’s on Star Wars, Torg, and Paranoia before moving to TSR and working on Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Spellfire and Dragon Dice. Bill continues to play and run D&D and Pathfinder every weekend in various online campaigns.
And That's (Almost) A Wrap
We owe a big thank-you to everyone who's helped this Kickstarter become such a success. THANKS! We can't wait to watch how this all ends. A great way to spend a Valentine's Day, right? We'll see you on the other side!