Friday, December 2, 2016

Commentary Two Electric Boogloo - D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition

If the players have survived up to this point then they're going to be in for some really dangerous encounters coming up. Numerous Drow patrols, weird random encounters, strange sights, & lots of fighting.
If the party has survived D1 then its onto the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa which has some of the most overarching lite Lovecraftian horrors this side of a Deep One. I have special affinity for this module even though it takes the sum of Module D1 which had the Caverns and Warrens of the Troglodytes, and brings it up a notch.

Here the PC's are going to have to think & even though this is a slaughter fest in some places the players have to make alliances, deal with insane NPC's, & think their way through many of the challenges not to mention Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother of the Kuo-Toa.As well as her's temple the center piece of this fish stew of old school weirdness.

The real key here is their alliance with the Deep Gnomes which are some of the most powerful allies the PC's can make & they need it. This  part of the adventure being one of the first appearances in the original  Shrine of the Kuo-Toa of the iconic Umber Hulk and other familiar iconic monsters of AD&D. For many
the original Shrine of the Kuo-Toa is simply a hack & slash fest & in some respects it is. But its also one of the center pieces of D&D where the sum is greater then the parts in the combination of D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth.

There are several reasons why this adventure works on the levels that it does:
  • The environment of the adventure's underworld is compelling & works to get the PC's involved in the action even as it tries to kill them. 
  • This module opens up a secondary completely alien underground world to the PC's where they're actions have some but very little impact on the lives of the factions operating there. 
  • There are lots of heavy hitter NPC's operating there & only a concerted effort on the PC's part is going to get some of the goals set forth in this adventure done. 
  • Even though this is a 'hack & slash' adventure you've got to use your brains as a PC or you might miss opportunities.
There is something absolutely nasty & alien about the Kuo-Toa, maybe its the echoes of Lovecraft with the degenerate humans worshiping things that will feed on them without remorse aspect. But many players over the years have come to hate these beings with a passion. They're rites, god, & spawning temples are the stuff of nightmare for some people. I'm fine with that as a DM.

This is another module where the Drow and Kuo-toa trade with each other openly, but the Kuo-toa hate and fear the Drow; so the enemy of my enemy is my friend who might sacrifice me to their demon god. This is another module where the party walks the razor's edge of diplomacy in the form of a sword point. This is something that would later on be exploited much more extensively in second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Underdark. This where the Drow as well as the Underdark become a full blown campaign setting. That's where the Underdark & its dwellers lost their alien uniqueness in my opinion.

D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth is unique, dangerous, full of lots of weirdness & its a study in Gary Gygax's passion for balancing his adventure game elements with the full bravado that we'd come to see fully much later on. Here the sum is greater then the pieces of D1 & D2 so that the combination takes the adventure into a solid piece of AD&D high level tournament adventuring & old school dungeon crawling.

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