Sunday, March 3, 2019

5E: Which Greyhawk Classics Are Next?

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I am going to do an in-depth survey of which adventures or classic themes remain for WotC to adapt to 5th Edition. It's been a remarkable run so far for 5E, with Wizards' handling of nostalgia driven storylines and online entertainment. I wonder if they can keep up the pace? To that end, I want to also utilize a wonderful article The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time from Dungeon Magazine #116. A panel of D&D's best authors chose the top 30 and it shows that when it comes to classics that remain fresh with each edition, Greyhawk is the king of D&D. Let's have a look:

Classic (#30): Ghost Tower of Inverness by Allan Hammack

5E: None
Comments: Living Greyhawk did a "return to" Ghost Tower module in 3.5E and 4E did one for their Encounters game event. As I'm running this module as I write this post, I can say with conviction there is a lot of potential for a 5E version though the trope of a ruined castle/tower owned by a wizard is very common in classic D&D. 

Classic (#29): Assassin's Knot by Lenard Lakofka
5E: None
Comments: This is the second part in Lakofka's L series, started by the equally classic The Secret of Bone Hill (perhaps #31 in the top list?). These modules were early examples of sandbox style of play. Individually or together, I could see them end up in a 5E anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#27): Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh by Dave Brown and Don Turnbull
5E: (converted) Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Comments: Ghosts of Saltmarsh also includes the rest of U series, Danger at Dunwater and The Final Enemy. This book is significant because it not only serializes three Greyhawk modules, it also brings in some Dungeon Magazine classics for the first time like Tammeraut's Fate and The Styes.

Classic (#26): City of Skulls by Carl Sargent
5E: None
Comments: This module from 2E is unique due to its part in the time line of Greyhawk during the Greyhawk Wars. The theme of infiltrating a city to rescue a kidnapped noble has only been done perhaps in 5E Dragon Heist, though Waterdeep hardly compares to the capital of Iuz the Evil. It is so intricately tied to Greyhawk, that it would be surprising to see this classic updated to 5E.

Classic (#23): The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gary Gygax
5E: None 
Comments: This gothic horror module will likely come soon to 5E since the namesake cult in this book is quite popular in D&D lore. Thematically cults have been over done in D&D, including a few times in 5E story lines to date, but this one is rather unique. Likewise, Tharizdun has been mentioned in 5E products already so it's only a matter of time!

Classic (#22): The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
5E: None
Comments: As mentioned before, this is a sandboxy module of mountain and cave exploration. The villains and monsters found in Tsojcanth were original for its day. Lost Caverns was last expanded in 3.5E Dungeon Magazine, but a 5E update would surely be free to roam again. Alternatively Tsojcanth could end up in a 5E anthology book with the other remaining classics from S1-4, Realms of Horrror (Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).

Classic (#20): Scourge of the Slave Lords by various authors
5E: (reprint) Against the Slave Lords 
Comments: This adventure path is comprised of the A series of modules dealing with the theme of defeating an evil slave trading organization one piece at a time. This series was compiled in Scourge and later expanded in 2E's Slavers. Most recently, there was a new episode (A0) added to the slavers series for their Against the Slave Lords AD&D reprint. There seems to be slight chance WotC will use this plot since it was already explored in a reprint, though the rules remained 1E. 

Classic (#19): Against the Cult of the Reptile God by Douglas Niles
5E: None
Comments: This modest low level classic is set near Keoland and involves themes of an evil cult and investigation. Like I mention before, evil cults are a constant theme of D&D plots. This module would be best seen in an anthology of classic cult modules like Forgotten Temple and the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Classic (#18): Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson and Jeff Leason
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Tamoachan is a popular jungle themed dungeon and has seen revision in 4E once and though it is Mayan influenced, the theme of jungle exploration is currently one that Wizards covered in Tomb of Annihilation. It's inclusion in Yawning Portal comes as no surprise.

Classic (#13) Dwellers of the Forbidden City by David Cook
Classic (#10): Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce Cordell
Classic (#3): Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax
5E: (themes and converted) Tomb of Annihilation/Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: As mentioned above, ToA is about jungle exploration and lost cities (ties to the classic Isle of Dread and Dwellers). ToA also utilizes the antagonist of ToH, a module that is so popular that it has been seen in novels and expanded upon or adapted for every edition of D&D.

Classic (#9): White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Wizard's ruined dungeons are commonplace, but WPM is unique for being built inside a volcano and it features a few classic magic weapons like Blackrazor. This module has seen updates and adaptations in nearly every edition as well.

Classic (#8): Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil by Monte Cook
Classic (#4): The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer
5E: (theme and board game) Princes of the Apocalypse, Temple of Elemental Evil, Out of the Abyss
Comments: The theme of an evil elemental worshiping cult is taken in a wild new direction in 5E, without directly taking the Temple out of Greyhawk. A tie in board game of the namesake however, failed to pay homage to its roots. It is also worth noting the demoness villain of this megadungeon, Zuggtmoy, is also featured in Out of the Abyss. ToEE is popular enough in D&D to warrant a full 5E adaptation someday, perhaps in an anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#5): Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
5E: (sequel) Lost Laboratory of Kwalish 
Comments: Barrier Peaks' themes of magitech and weird monsters wasn't reimagined here so much as given a suitable sequel to Gygax's original. The special adventure was done for charity, instead of a regular story line event, so I wonder if this theme will be revisited someday.

Classic (#1) Queen of the Spiders by Gygax and various authors
5E: (themes) Storm Giants Thunder, Out of the Abyss
Comments: Queen of the Spiders' adventure path components are classics in their own right. Themes seen in 5E include giant antagonists, Against the Giants (G series), fighting through the Underdark, Vault of the Drow (D series), and defeating demonlords, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Somehow, given Lolth and drow are heavily in Out of the Abyss, I expect this plot to see another pass in the years to come if only because of author R.A. Salvatore.

Some other select Greyhawk adventures of note:

Age of Worms: This adventure path from 3.5E Dungeon Magazine involved stopping an evil cult bringing a destructive deity to Oerth. One could argue that is the plot of 5E's first story line, Tyranny of Dragons.

Savage Tide: Another huge adventure path set in Greyhawk. This series involves nautical elements, demons and it drags the Isle of Dread into Greyhawk. As the plot involves themes like madness, Demogorgon and abyssal politics, I'd say Out of the Abyss covered this one.

Vecna Lives! Vecna Reborn, Die Vecna Die: Vecna is a core deity in D&D. His exploits are well known and developed since 2E. Vecna has not been featured in 5E yet. Perhaps the antagonist of lich Acererak in Tomb of Annihilation would cover this base, but really there is too much material left here for Wizards not to use Vecna someday.

Five Shall Be One, Howl From the North: This two part adventure deals with themes of barbarians and cold, wilderness exploration. So far 5E has not gone this route yet. FSBO is note worthy in that it is a quest for five magic blades to free a trapped god who will unite the barbarians of the north. After having adapted this story in my campaign to the south seas, I can tell you the originals are weak and a 5E update could only improve it.

Greyhawk Ruins/ Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk: The modules based on Gygax's most famous mega-dungeon. I can say with certainty these won't see a 5E revision since the themes of a dungeon belonging to a mad mage is exactly that of Undermountain (#17 classic) which was recently updated in the apt title, Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure/ Maure Castle: This megadungeon by Rob Kuntz is a classic in my opinion. It's see a conversion and expansion during 3.5E in Dungeon. However, like Castle Greyhawk, I can't see Wizards ever going here due the enormous length and similarity in theme to DotMM.

TL;DR version:
D&D has found it's groove by weaving new story lines into classic modules, while also dishing out anthologies of 5E adapted modules to promote old school themes. It's a formula they won't deviate from soon, but given the lists of classic Greyhawk adventures to draw from, they are already more than half-way through their pool of themes. In the future, WotC will need to turn to either other game worlds, like Dragonlance (Dragons of Despair, #25 classic), Ravenloft (#2 classic, adapted in Curse of Strahd 5E), Planescape (Dead Gods #14 classic) or the pages of Dungeon Magazine to find some diamonds in the rough that with any luck, will become the new classics.


grodog said...

I will be very curious to see what, if anything, comes of Greyhawk as an official setting for 5e. Perhaps some news will be forthcoming at GaryCon?


Mike Bridges said...

My theory is nothing will happen. If Greyhawk goes "official" every item in this article will be adapted to 5E in the blink of an eye. Wizards likes having that well of ideas. If only the rest of us were free to do the minutae of the setting for DMsGuild in the meantime.

Valkaun_Dain said...

Ghost Tower has been fun as hell, Mike.

Lord Gosumba said...

If they want a Classic "Deep Delve" into Old School and Greyhawk, it will be a series of Adventures that include Tsojcanth and Tharizdun. That would be the direction I would go in. Then again, I am definitely not WotC lol.

Pat Payne said...

There might be a "third option" (though so remote as to be unlikely) for some of these GH properties, even if not under the Greyhawk name:

Maybe Goodman Games will be allowed to take some of the GH modules and redo them like they've been allowed to do with The Keep On The Borderlands and the Isle of Dread. Crazier things have happened...

Mike Bridges said...

Pat: Good call! It is remarkable they were given those juicy mods to use. Nice thought!

Gosumba: Yeah I totally see a delve collection in the future. Many of these left overs go together that way.

Vaklaun: Hell yes it is! Also, I may have found my next one to run. Still secret.

Pat Payne said...

I don't know how true it is (this was from a poster on the Goodman Games forums, I haven't been able to find any official announcement yet) but someone was saying the next of the GG Classic Modules Reincarnated line was announced as going to be Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Mike Bridges said...

Thanks Pat! Yeah I'd like to know how Goodman gets rights to convert 5e stuff when GH is still out of bounds for the rest of us. If this EttBP is like the Isle of Dread and Keep I saw at Gary Con, it'll be enormous. Not sure how or why lol.