Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Retro Review Of D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax For The Advanced Dungeons And Dragons First Edition Game & Your Old School Campaigns

The following review & adaption of Descent into the Depths of the Earth isn't going to make a whole lot of sense if you haven't read my reviews of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh & Danger At Dunwater. 
Basically back year ago I ran some back to back Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea action using both of U series of classic adventures which then led the PC's into having a run in with Eclavdra and some of her minions. The PC's had already completed a good circuit of modules that I've been looking at in the past couple of weeks. They had converted the Keep on The Borderlands into a base of operations and had returned to Salt Marsh & Rendford.


Back in Rendford they were hearing rumors of the events of Agents The Giants which another group of players were taking care of and that's another blog entry for another day. The Wiki  history of Descent Into The Depths gives some very vital clues into adapting this module into your own campaigns;"
Descent Into the Depths of the Earth[2] is an adventure module for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy roleplaying game coded D1–2. It was written by Gary Gygax, and combines two previously published modules from 1978, the original Descent into the Depths of the Earth and Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. A sequel to the first two modules, Vault of the Drow, was also published in 1978. All of these D-series modules were produced for use with the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules.
The D-series itself is part of a larger overall campaign of adventures set in the World of Greyhawkcampaign setting. The overall campaign begins with the three modules in the Against the Giants series, continues through the D-series, and concludes with module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits."
There are several key pieces that can be taken from this module's Wiki breakdown :
  • The are large gaps that a dungeon master can exploit to bring in his own adventurers throughout the beginning adventure phases of the module quite easily. Studying the adventure is very necessary for the players to get the idea that Eclavdra is trying to devestate the human populations of  your campaign. 
  • By changing the Kuo-Toa into Deep Ones the depths of these Lovcraftian bastards is even more nasty and leaves a very bad taste in the adventurers mouth that you can exploit later. 
  • Magic items and relics that the PC's are going to come in handy later when they begin venturing into Under Hyperborea.
Running Descent Into The Depths is really going to depend upon making Eclavdra not only a priestess of Lolth but more akin to an agent of Chaos ala Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer series. Given her background ala Wiki this makes a certain amount of sense; "
Eclavdra is a powerful, ravishing drow priestess of Lolth, Eclavdra is known for her cruelty and complex scheming, and her total lack of compassion. She eliminates rivals before they can become threats. In Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue novels, Eclavdra is depicted as incredibly beautiful, with jet black skin, violet eyes, perfect breasts, and snow white hair. However, she is as evil as she is beautiful.
Eclavdra is the leader of House Eilserv and the most powerful priestess of Lolth. Her former consorts include Derakhshan and the demon lordGraz'zt. She also has a son, Athux. With Stalmin Klim she helped create the Slave Lords. The Slave Lord Edralve is her former protégé. A native of the city of Erelhei-Cinlu and member of House Eilserv, Eclavdra has served other powerful entities in the past, notably the Elder Elemental Eye and Graz'zt."  This is also going to hinge upon the fact that there are not any Elves on Hyperborea. This makes the Drow just that much more alien. 

The plot breakdown has some good points to it; " In D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, the PCs seek the home of the drow by traveling through an underground world of caves and passages.[7] In the tunnels, the adventurers first fight a tough drow patrol, and the next major fight is with a raiding party of mind flayers and wererats, who have halted their patrol long enough to torture their drow prisoner.[6] The characters also find a grand cavern containing drow soldiers, purple worms, a lich, a clutch of undead, a giant slug, sphinxes, trolls, bugbears, troglodytes, wyverns, and fungi.[6]
D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa picks up with the party continuing to pursue the drow. The party encounters a kuo-toan rogue monitor who helps them cross a large river for a fee. A party of Svirfneblin (or deep gnomes) approaches the player characters on the other side, and the party has a chance to convince them to help them fight against the drow. As the party travels, signs of the drow are all around; the drow are allowed to pass through these subterranean areas, even though they are hated and feared by the other local intelligent races. The party then moves through kuo-toa territory, ruled by the Priest-Prince Va-Guulgh. If the PCs appease the kuo-toa and respect their customs, the evil kuo-toa are not openly hostile to the party, but will attack if the party gives them a reason. The party learns that the drow and kuo-toa trade with each other openly, but the kuo-toa hate and fear the drow, resulting in frequent skirmishes between the two peoples."

 Basically the D1-2 Descent Into The Depths of the Earth  is a perfect excuse to get a party of adventurers into a layered underworld that seems to get more terrible and dangerous as they travel downward.  In the traditional Underdark over the years it seems to have become somewhat less hostile and more hospitable to human and near human  parties. There was almost always an element of Jules Verne's Journey To The Center of the Earth to D1 -D2 and the more I've read of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea the deeper one gets the more weird and alien the underworld of Underborea is. Using  D1-2 Descent Into The Depths of  The Earth with either Dark Albion or Lamentations of the Flame Princess would present some unique challenges but it could easily be done. The events of the Giant series might be happening around the Alps of  Italy or Romania being very vague and distantly disturbing rumors. The action of  D1-2 might be happening around the Spain, Italian & France border regions at around the Thirteenth or Fourteenth centuries.

This might account for some of the destabilizing history of the regions and the Lovcraftian rumors of witchcraft  in these areas. If your dungeon master is going to go for this option I highly suggest to swap out some of the traditional monsters with some of your own invention. Descent also allows the DM to create and modify out several cults that can easily be be brought to the forefront of their campaigns. Descent is great for just this sort of reference as well.
Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother would make an excellent patron for Dungeon Crawl Classics for either clerics or wizards with appropriate mutations, spellburn issues, and spells.

Getting back into the sword & sorcery action D1-D2 has a ton of material to offer a dungeon master looking to up their party's game and getting them lost into the weirdness of the Descent adventures. There's also a ton of background that can be incorporated into a game campaign especially if you've run your party of adventurers through the Temple of Elemental Evil.

This series modules explores the wonderfully pulpy Hollow Earth roots of the hobby and you've got a wonderful mandate to explore the underworld of the modules. Descent Into The Depths is a perfect example of a series of modules that has monster factions folding into each other but some of these connections are very thin and have to be more fleshed out by the dungeon master for their own campaigns.  The Shrine of the Kuo-Tua gives some very solid background and details to the settlements, cities, and settings of these Lovecraftian bastards. The Drow are nasty pieces of work that have become far to common in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures, but  D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth By Gary Gygax is a classic and has a myriad of uses for the gaming table.

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