Monday, November 23, 2015

Retro Review & Commentary On N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

Terror by night! The village of Orlane is dying. Once a small and thriving community, Orlane has become a maze of locked doors and frightened faces. Strangers are shunned, trade has withered. Rumors flourish, growing wilder with each retelling. Terrified peasants flee their homes, abandoning their farms with no explanation. Others simply disappear. . .

No one seems to know the cause of the decay -- why are there no clues? Who skulks through the twisted shadows of the night? Who or what is behind the doom that has overtaken the village? It will take a brave and skillful band of adventurers to solve the dark riddle of Orlane!

And so begins N1 Against The Cult of The Reptile God

Heroes have to start somewhere? And the village of Orlane needs heroes, men and women of steel, guts, and burdened with a certain sense of destiny. This is an adventure for four to seven PC's of levels one through three. But don't let that fool you, this is a first rate adventure for AD&D first edition that is both dangerous and deceptively interesting.

I'm trying to think back to when I first came across N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God & it all comes back to me in a swirl of cigar smoke and the scent of tobacco. The year was Eighty two and I was coming back home from Saint Peter's school in Torrington,Connecticut. After dodging bullies, irate nuns,and a class detention I stopped in to see the latest additions to Laraia's Smoke shop which back then carried an array of AD&D first edition material. Long since both their old school gaming material and old downtown corner location have vanished to the mists of time. Right off I can tell you more then a bit about Against the Cult of the Reptile God. This is a very tight adventure, background elements place the action right in a triangle of weirdness where mystery leads to town, then into wilderness, and finally dungeon.

All weekend I've been quietly geeking out on Tim Truman's artwork from D&D, and his cover here is striking, evocative, and certainly grabbed my young attention. The village of Orlane is well detailed and the cult's caverns are nasty, dangerous locations that can be used for a variety of old school applications. Wiki has a damn good break down of the adventure; "The player characters arrive in the village of Orlane, where they are met with mixed reactions. Some villagers are friendly towards the characters, whereas some are distant and others are very suspicious and guarded. The characters realize that something is amiss, and have to find out what.[5] They find that Orlane is being plagued by an evil cult, and the characters have to stop the cult"  Between the locked doors of the once thriving village of Orlane and the almost but not quite Robert Howard style bits of the NPC's in this adventure Douglas Niles spins sword and sorcery gold here. Douglas Niles spins cult events between the happenings in the village and the affairs of the village. This gives the module an almost Lovecraftian feel in places.

There a ton of maps in this twenty eight page adventure and Steven Sullivan is in his element picking his way through the cartography like an artist. Truman's art is evocative moody and iconic all at the same time in this one.  Against the Cult of the Reptile God has an almost Wild West feel to it as the cult doesn't wait for the PC's to come after them but instead takes the initiative and goes after the party of adventurers. And there are several places where the party can die very badly and in some very nasty fashions. I like Jim Halloway's artwork here and it stands in stark contrast to the Truman art pieces.

So is Against The Reptile God Still relevant and playable? I'm happy to report that yes, yes it is. Perhaps even more so today. There's a ton of retroclone options out there to do this module justice. Be warned even though this is classic module it requires a great deal of role playing and detective work on the part of the PC's. This is one of those modules that over the years plays different each and every time. The players choices are going to affect them in each and every over arching event during Against The Cult of the Reptile God. This also includes the fallout after the events of the module when things begin to return to normal. There is opportunity for more work on the part of the adventurers.

There are lots of surprises and twists in this one, none of which I'm going to spoil. Orlane is one of those village adventure locations that really does an excellent job of fleshing itself out with reasons. There are reasons for the adventure locations, why the adventurers are there in the first place, and what can be done with Against The Cult of the Reptile God. Recently I've had the rare opportunity to run this module with Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The translation was fairly smooth with one or two bumps in the road but over all this was  a damn fine module to run with AS&AH. But there are several key things to keep in mind here. One the adventure has be run with all of the adventure locations intact, two things turn very ugly very quickly when several key event's triggers are pulled and three this is in place a very lethal module especially in the latter half of Against the Reptile God. 

The town of Orlane and the adventure that surrounds it are really the stars of the adventure and because of its carefully written background its very much tied into Greyhawk's campaign setting. In fact the adventure played correctly traces the PC's movement across the face of the setting. I've been told of gamers that I know using OSRIC to run N1 but I had heard that there was some minor adjustments to running the game fully with that retroclone.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, classic modules are classic for a reason and in this case its the whole package that works on many levels. Against the Cult of The Reptile God is a prime example of an old school module that delivers on many levels. This is a module to get excited about and have fun with. The elements are all there and it has played different each and every single time I've run this one.

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