Saturday, April 2, 2016

Favorite Greyhawk Modules Ranked

It's a breezy slow workday so I feel like doing an easy subject, namely my top 10 favorite Greyhawk modules. I don't quite own all of them yet, but the ones I do have I barely got around to running them all, yet others I've ran multiple times. With that said, I won't even pick Tomb of Horrors, Temple of Elemental Evil or White Plume Mountain. Let's try some other mods and see how it goes.

10. Dungeonland: Okay folks, this and the follow up Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, are a guilty pleasure of mine. I am a huge fan of Lewis Carroll's world so naturally I enjoyed the hell out of these parody modules. My friends perhaps weren't all that pleased, but you have to admit the thing runs itself!

9. The City of Skulls: This underrated module sends you on a rescue mission into the capital city of Iuz the Evil himself. The 2E format and maps might be pretty flimsy, but the heart of the plot is quite good and an enterprising DM can definitely make something more with this module. A remake of this is high on my wish-list.

8. Against the Giants: This compilation of three classic tournament modules is one of the first purchases I ever made. As a fan of norse mythology it's fun to send puny heroes up against hill, frost or fire giants and see them hold their own. Never get tired of giants.

7. The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: Want a creepy horror dungeon crawl? You can't get much better than this module. Tharizdun was still quite a mystery back when this came out, but since then he's been rehashed reimagined and recast many times. Get back to Tharizdun's roots and check out this highly dangerous mod.

6. Age of Worms: This is actually a 12 episode Adventure Path by Paizo during 3.5E. I only truly liked half of its component modules, but several parts are quite memorable to me, notably the beginning with the Wind Duke's tomb, the Champion's Games in the City of Greyhawk, Prince Zeech in Alhaster, and the final battles against Dragotha and Kyuss. there's a lot to love in Age of Worms.

5. Greyhawk Ruins: It's not the prettiest module to look at; reams of crappy maps, appendices of monster stat lines, so-so interior art and a ton of keyed locations. As bad as this trio of dungeons seems, it is dense with wonderful easter eggs, unique treasures and yes, endless monsters to slay. This module may not be Gygax's exact vision of the ruins, but for many of us it was the best published version. It even got a sequel in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk. How much do I like Greyhawk Ruins? I ran the entire thing twice.

4. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh: This is my favorite low level mod set in Greyhawk. I love it's location between Keoland and the Sea Princes. The plot is easy and fun, it's like a Scooby Doo mystery.

3. Five Shall Be One: A quest to find five artifact level magic swords? How did my friends not jump on this adventure? Only one of them wanted to play so he played five characters at once! That's how good this adventure was to me. The first half of the quest is good I should clarify. The second half, Howl From the North is utter garbage. This is why I'm busy rebooting the entire FSBO quest for 5E. Read it here on Greyhawkery.

2. Vecna Lives!: This module unlike any others made for Greyhawk is both extremely dangerous and potentially world changing. Vecna the Archlich, his cult and his artifacts is hard to beat. The module involves some exotic locations, the Circle of Eight and some good artwork overall. Chris Perkins and the Wizards team needs to take a hard look at Vecna Lives! for one of their future 5E storylines.

1. Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure/ Maure Castle: Yes, of course this is my favorite. Robert Kuntz's MFA and it's expansive sequel in Dungeon #112 is superior to any Greyhawk-Castle-Ruin type module published for Greyhawk properEli Tomorast is my favorite villain as well. Check these modules out if you can, they will provide many months of good gaming.


enabity said...

I've read this blog on and off over time. For some reason, this topic made me want to post.

What I have always enjoyed about Greyhawk is the way the world is presented. It is the heroic events, the adventures that define the modern history of the world. This bottom up approach means that your current campaign is part of the fabric, and there is the potential for multiple campaigns to share the same fabric.

For this reason, most of my favorite adventures are the ones that shape the world, but it isn't that simple. I tend toward preferring the behind the scenes shaping that may not be so obvious from the outside. Fortunately, that's the way most of the modules from Greyhawk roll. There's no obvious save the world, except Vecna Lives, which is maybe why it doesn't make my list.

There are some spoilers here. I'm not sure how much that is a problem. I hope I haven't stepped over the line.

1. T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil: This adventure is at the nexus of recent history. It's wrapped up in the formation of the Citadel then Circle of Eight and the battle at Emridy Meadows. Then, there are the factions within the Temple that make for so many different ways to play it. This is an adventure one has to think about as DM, because playing it as a straight-up dungeon crawl is a waste of the potential war between the Temple and the PCs. Like all large dungeon adventures, this one has some warts, but it has fewer than any other that is comparable in size and scope. I've run this adventure more than any other, and never the same way twice.

2. L1-2 The Secret of Bone Hill/Assassin's Knot: This is my favorite campaign launching point that isn't Hommlet. Restenford has a few places to get into trouble, Bone Hill is a nice faux haunted house and Assassin's Knot is a good mystery. The Lendore Isles are maybe a less attractive starting point than Saltmarsh, but I prefer this adventure to Sinister Secret.

3. WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure: The connection to Mordenkainen is nice, but the real value in this module is how it fleshes out the legacy of magical power in the Duchy of Urnst. The extraordinary means necessary to get in make it THE exclusive adventuring locale, though also undermines the dungeon as an ecosystem, making it more flawed in that regard to the Temple, which makes more sense since it is a base of operations for an evil cult.

4. WG6 Isle of the Ape: This adventure is not spectacular on its face, but it has deep meaning in Greyhawk. The Crook of Rao will be a powerful tool to create stability after the Greyhawk Wars. I probably overvalue this adventure because in our WoG, the device exists as both a toy mace with magical might and a crook for bashing fiends. However, it must be used to manually defeat fiends to recharge the toy mace's power to be used as Hazen does to cause the flight of fiends in 586.

5. A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords: This is a great chase to save a minor noble and rid the Wild Coast of slavers. This is the adventure that defines the entire Wild Coast. There are a lot of warts, though, otherwise it would be up near the Temple in my opinion. Using the party gets captured twice in one adventure is at least one time too many, possibly two times too many. A2: The Slavers' Stockade is the gem with Markessa and her experiments, as well as her invention of the boggle. A1 is good as well and the setup of Suderham at the end of A4 is, too. The problem is A3 and the transition into A4.

enabity said...

The rest of my too long post:

6. GDQ Queen of Spiders: Against the Giants is the best part of this series. The drow make for a nice insidious power behind the giants, and D1-2 is an interesting crawl through the tradeways of the underdark (and the community project D4:Encyclopedia Subterranica is nice as well). However, the drow end up being that threat that is better hidden than actually visited. That part of the adventure really serves best as a political background on the drow and Erelhei-Cinlu than adventure.

7. S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: This is a fun adventure that outlines adventure in the Yatil Mountains and gives background on Iuz indirectly through his half-sister Drelzna and Igwilv, his mother. It's a better adventure than some ahead of it, but not as connected to the network of events in the Flanaess.

8. WGS1-2 Greyhawk Wars Trilogy(Including the Greyhawk Wars boxed game): Being part of the flashpoint of the Greyhawk wars is awesome. The blades of Corusk are interesting. I'm not a big fan of how the sequence of finding the blades plays out. I think those kinds of story lines work best stretched out more than these adventures are.

9. C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness: I have a soft spot for the Urnst/Greyhawk/Wild Coast region. Doing a time traveling heist for the advisor to the Duke of Urnst, a powerful wizard, defines the power structure well for me. No archmage in their right mind wants to go into an altered dimensional space like the Tower, whereas most dungeons would not be a meaningful risk. So, this resonates for me, particularly because there's a good reason for the powerful character to send the adventurers off into the dungeon.

10. S2 White Plume Mountain: This is the way to put artifact class items in the world (The PCs don't need to be the ones that are involved in these events), though this is a relatively shallow way to do it. In that sense, it isn't as good as Isle of the Ape. However, this adventure is particularly important in our WoG. Blackrazor in particular, and the other two weapons are important pieces in the upper echelons of power and wealth in Greyhawk City. The biggest problem with the adventure is that it should be a little higher level and the finale should be more complex. The biggest problem is that the adventure has the potential to be unfulfilled later when the players decide they want to keep the weapons and the DM handles the collection process too lightly or with persons that should have gone instead of the PCs.

Notable omissions:

Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: This adventure is about finding out about Tharizdun, but it really doesn't go anywhere on its own. It needs other adventures to build up into something. It could have been a nice a part of a supermodule, linked with other T material. I have linked it (vaguely) with In the Dread of Night from Dungeon 24, but if you want to do a Tharizdun campaign in Greyhawk you need to change existing material or you're on your own. This isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't really the Greyhawk way.

Greyhawk Ruins: This adventure is a lot like the drow: good in theory and hard to actually realize in a fun way. I'm not sure anything that is explicitly shown improves on the legends of Zagig's castle. I was particularly disappointed by level 4 of the Tower of Zagig. The whole adventure seems like it was a tedious job assigned to an unwilling designer. It's not as good as the Temple or Maure Castle, and the glow of Zagig isn't enough to carry it.

Vecna Lives: This adventure falls in the same bucket as Greyhawk Ruins. Taking the Circle of Eight out of the picture for awhile is a world event that has potential for impact, but the Iuz vs Vecna finale is hard to get right. It would probably be better as a more drawn-out adventure, but that means you can't kill the Circle in the prologue. That creates way too much urgency.

Jason R said...

Great post; I love reading your fellas picks and your rationale for each. My favorites are ones where we had the most fun as a group, and there are multiple other factors for things all coming together as they did besides the "quality" of the module. Many of those older adventures were rough in some ways, but the imagination they fired cannot be discounted! My picks:

1. Greyhawk Ruins. I loved this mega-module. Great times with my group and so many seeds by which to expand the stories and adventure. Coupled with the City of Greyhawk boxed set and the like, this was my PC's stomping grounds. A band of Fruztii even adventured here looking for one of the Blades of Corusk. I never ran Return to Greyhawk Ruins, but I've read through it and I think it looks superb.

2. The Five Shall Be One. Epic in its scope and with success or failure having huge regional consequences. Loved this series. I fleshed out Helden Stormfist as an NPC as we needed an extra body; he ended up weilding The Edge and that great black and white drawing of the sword remains etched in my mind. Strangely, the failed ceremony caused the PC's to start looking for the blades anew, and launched them into the Spelljammer multi-verse!

3. White Plume Mountain. Wave and Blackrazor dominating my players was a memorable chapter in the campaign; "Pseidon is our friend!" yells one member as he swings the trident into his friends' faces! It was funny role playing I'll never forget.

4. Hidden Shrine of Tamochan. Spelling is probably off. One of the first adventures I ever DM'd. Worked out really well. Great to tie in to other jungle locations and such. Loved the booklet of drawings for player handouts.

I ran others, such as Tomb of Horrors, etc, but those are my top four. I did not consider other adventures adapted to the Greyhawk setting, nor adventures from Dungeon mag and so on for this discussion.

I love your guys lists, and there are so many on there I want a crack at someday! Cheers!

enabity said...

Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is definitely an interesting adventure, probably more fun and more creatively designed than a number on my list of favorites. It and Dwellers of the Forbidden City give the southern jungles a little more flavor.