Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Using Classic TSR Era Tournament Modules To Build Old School Campaigns With Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition's I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City By Dave Cook

First appearing in  1980 at Origins Game Fair I1 Dwellers in The Forbidden City By Dave Cook and was later published by TSR in 1981 for use with the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. Its a classic tournament level adventure meant to showcase the advantages of AD&D play while it kills your PC with a bunch of your friends. Its also a good module to use to build a mini campaign to take your PC's up the ladder from levels four to seven.
"Somewhere in the heart of the steaming jungle lies the answer to the whispered tales - rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Here a brave party might find riches and wonders - or death! Is your party brave enough to face the terrors of the unknown and find the Forbidden City!?"
This module introduced the players to one of the major dwelling places of the Lovecraftian Aboleth and the yuan ti which fit in so well to the Red Nails like atmosphere of I1. This is the perfect module to create an isolated plateau of lost world goodness in the middle of the jungle. For my own campaigns I've used the this adventure to be joined in with plot of 
The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.  This can take PC's up the long ladder for advancement & exploitation. We'll get to that in a minute. 

Because I1 is faction heavy its the perfect module to build up the pulpy atmosphere of an Asian heavy element campaign complete with competing factions within the lost city's environs. There are also some major pieces of Greyhawk's history within this module so a clever DM could back lace some of those elements into their own campaign world & setting. This includes taking the settings of Dwellers of the Forbidden City & peppering it throughout with mini dungeons then taking the whole adventure to setting it on one of the nearby islands from the Island of Dread. Yes I completely stole this from Dragon foot member and its easy enough to combine them by placing the city on one of the other islands near the Isle of Dread." Its this lost world hot house melting pot aspect of I1 that really clicks with me.

There's so much potential to use this module to build PC's from one encounter to the other as things move along. The campaign moves along at a damn fast rate. The basic plot could actually start with the classic Isle of Dread adventure ;"In the adventure, the characters are hired to find an object taken to a lost oriental-style city, which has been taken over by a cult of snake-worshipers, the yuan-ti, and their servants, the mongrelmen and tasloi"  

The Gygaxian dungeon ecology is hard at work in this style of island hopping and dungeon crawling. Take your party into the environs of the Forbidden City followed closely
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun  which can be used to piggy back and expand the whole thing into, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. finally hitting its conclusion in the  AS&SH's Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess  that connects into one of the tunnels in I1.

From there you get into a sword & black powder or a sword & sorcery campaign or both that creates an entire lost world country of pulpy monsters, horrid cults, Lovecraftian plots, and lots of ruins to be explored, exploited, and expanded upon. Bad Mike from the Dragon's foot site Dragon's foot has incredibly great expansions that he's written that expand upon I1 here;"
As Grodog says I wrote up a big conclusion a few years ago, I sold/gave away copies several years ago. It's based on the Yuan-Ti dungeon in WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk. I'll summarize it here. Basically there is an over-arching plot in the city that may or may not even be discovered by the adventurers; this final encounter ties into that. Here is the intro to the encounter, this can give you an idea of how to place the final encounter, and perhaps some ideas for staging a finale.

Mike B.

The Yuan ti themselves have lately been raiding more frequently for two reasons: One, they have begun buying many slaves from the Taranthians, Tzula tribesmen and orc pirates through pureblood intermediaries to use as sacrifices, and need the treasure to use as payment. Two, they have captured the humans in the caravans to use as sacrifices. All these humanoids have been killed for a purpose, to open a gate that will lead to a hidden location atop Firestorm Mountain where many artifacts of the serpent men have been secreted for centuries. A few years ago while exploring the ruins of the Forbidden City the yuan ti found a chamber that contained a long ago constructed gate. Through research gleaned from the dusty libraries of the Forbidden City, the yuan-ti elders learned that when the City was originally inhabited thousands of years ago (before the Cataclysm) the yuan ti had infiltrated all aspects of life in the city. However, they were discovered by a great warrior Zull and his mage companion Aidar, who methodically located and killed every serpent man in the city. Before the last cell was discovered, they managed to create a gate to a hidden cave atop Firestorm Mountain and secret all their most powerful artifacts there. After the Cataclysm, the location was forgotten and then buried under tons of lava when Mount Firestorm erupted centuries later.
The location, although buried, still exists and divinations have shown the artifacts are still there awaiting discovery. With these treasures perhaps the yuan-ti could reverse the centuries of stagnation and once again become a mighty race. Unfortunately the only way to reactivate the gate is through blood sacrifice...10,000 humans (or thereabouts) must die at the altar before the gate once again functions. The yuan ti have managed to sacrifice over 9000 natives and explorers during the last few years, and are close to reaching their goal of opening the gate. Any sane human, evil or good, should stop at nothing to prevent the re-emergence and use of these ancient and powerful reptilian treasures! In general, any allies of the serpent men except for Horan will know absolutely nothing useful for the characters if they are captured and made to talk (only the serpent men directly involved in the sacrifices, plus the high priests, known the true extent of the scaly god’s plans). Powerful lone Abominations might know the complete reason for the caravan attacks, but they would rather die than let the player characters discover any useful information. Thus, it is left for the DM to slowly let information useful to the characters come to them in bits and pieces until they begin to see the scope of the serpentmen’s horrible schemes...a discovered ancient text in an abandoned library with cryptic information, an overheard conversation among snakemen referring to "regaining our lost glory", a chance find of a dropped set of instructions from Sathar to one of his followers concerning where to take the sacrifices "so that the Gate may finally open" will all begin to add up just before the DM springs the final encounter in Sathar’s lair on the now-enlightened party.


This area should be discovered whenever the DM thinks it’s appropriate; it is the climax of the adventures in the Forgotten City. The party should be approximately 7th-9th level at this point, and capable of foiling the plans of the snakemen to open the gate to their hidden temple and rescue the ancient serpentmen treasures hidden within. The battles will be deadly, and the party should have access to many anti-poison spells and devices, as well as one or two items vs reptilian beings. Ideally the assault should be quick and stealthy, and the main objective should be the slaughtering of the high priest...without him, the other serpentmen have no knowledge of how to open the gate.
If the party takes several days to penetrate the inner rooms of the undercity, reinforcements should arrive in the form of returning snakemen explorers and merchants. Each day there is a cumulative 20% chance that a party of purebloods, halfbreeds or abominations arrive to swell the numbers in the undercity (use the random tables above for statistics). They will have between 10-20 slaves with them, as well as the appropriate number of ophidian or histachii servants (tasloi are never allowed in the undercity). Even if the entire lair is cleaned out and destroyed, merchant bands of snakemen will continue to arrive each week for five weeks until word leaks out among followers of Set that the lair has been compromised. It will take several decades for another Serpent Man priest of high enough level to rediscover the ancient knowledge allowing him to open the gate, so the rise of the Yuan-Ti will be successfully thwarted although the undercity may continue to be used as a base for serpentmen and their allies.
Generally, almost all the snakemen encountered in the complex will be purebloods...Sathar requires his servants to be more than just brutes, and enjoys intelligent conversation and discussing the eventual rise of the Scaly Nations once again (with himself the main reason for this, of course). In truth, along with being supremely evil and intelligent, egotistical and a narcissist, Sathar is a bit of a racist in regards to his own race.... he believes Purebloods (and to a lesser extent competing Abominations) are the true rulers of the Yuan Ti race, Halfbreeds being no more than servants, bodyguards or cannon fodder for battles.
The entrance to the tunnels should be relatively unguarded...Sathar does not want to draw attention to this location by having a visible show of force. A ’40 wide opening that is shielded by hanging vines is the entrance, and utter blackness leads downward through a magnificently decorated hallway (40x20). The 2000 year old architecture is awe inspiring, but upon closer inspection several sinister motifs can be seen in the bas-reliefs...snake headed creatures with crowns leading seas of massive, wiggling snake things in a feast of screaming, bleeding humans dominate the proceedings. The area seems to have been excavated in the last few years, in several spots the marks of shovels and picks, along with mounds of dirt show evidence of this. The tunnel travels for 500 feet, eventually narrowing to 20 foot wide, all the time going downwards in complete and soundless darkness. At the end of the tunnel lies the Undercity of the Snakemen...
Typically, a caravan of slaves or goods continues down the tunnels to Location 1, where they are met by the guard on duty. He sends the caravan on ahead with half the ophidian guards to check in at area 1a, then drop off their cargo at area 6. After a day or so of rest and debriefing by the commander, the specially selected purebloods (specially selected for their ability to pass almost completely for human) leave the complex by the back exit (East door of Area 1d) and rendezvous with another slave coffle or plan another merchant or tribal ambush.

Once inside the complex, due to the circular nature of the rooms, any combat can quickly become deadly due to the amount of openings into each area and the ability of the serpentmen to pour into any room by at least three entrances per room. The Yuan Ti are of genius intelligence, yet their fury at their ultimate lair being penetrated will turn most into sword swinging psychopaths wanting only to hack the characters to pieces, forgetting or not using their spell abilities to their best advantage. Only the commander, sub commander, and priest will keep their heads clear enough to use their spells. They are apt to cast Suggestion "Surrender and you won’t be harmed!" or Cause Fear, using Darkness ’15 radius to obscure escape and Sticks to Snakes to buy time for the same, should it be needed. At no time will any of these three attempt to retreat to warn Sathar; this would be viewed as weakness and Sathar would have them executed if the invaders were defeated or driven off. It is far more likely a Pureblood will break away from combat at some time and attempt to summon Sathar’s bodyguards in the area below the ramp in Room 1D.
Unless the characters are good enough or smart enough to pick off the serpentmen room by room without giving warning, at some point a large battle will take place and all the serpentmen on the first level will rush to the area, through as many different entrances as they can, and try to crush the adventurers with sheer numbers. Generally Sathar’s bodyguards and the ophidian jailers on the lower level will stay there awaiting the arrival of the adventurers; Sathar will react as indicated in his description.

1. Access tunnels
Any access tunnel through which the party comes will be guarded by a single yuan-ti pureblood, armed with a scimitar and longbow, about hundred feet from room 1. He will be accompanied by 10 ophidian servants, one of which he will command to summon help upon sighting invaders, and two pet flying fangs. If the party is careful, they can disguise themselves as a pureblood slaver or merchant party, but it would require someone speaking snakeman (perhaps by magical means) and appropriate props (humans in chains w/o weapons or armor, for example) as well as some knowledge of the procedures used to get past the guard.
Yuan-ti pureblood: (Int Genius; AL CE; AC 4; MV 120; HD 6; hp 36; #AT 2; THACO 15; Dmg 1-8 scimitar and longbow; SA Spell ability; MR 20%; SZ M; ML 14; XP 1,400. This pureblood speaks serpentman and Delosian. Once per day he can use cause fear, darkness 15’rad., snake charm, sticks to snakes, neutralize poison, suggestion, and polymorph self (human form only).

10 Ophidian guards: (Ophidian (Int. 8-10 Average (human) intelligence; AL CN; AC 5; MV 9, Sw 18; HD 3; hp 14; THAC0 17; #AT 2; Dmg 1d3 and spear or short sword (1d6) SA see below; SD camouflage; SZ M; ML Unsteady (5-7); XP 175)

Snake, Flying Fang (Int. 5-7 Low intelligence; AL N; AC 5; MV 9, Fl 21(B); HD 1+4; hp 9, 11; THAC0 19; #AT 1 + Special; Dmg 1-3 (bite); SA Acid Spray 10 ft 1d4 dmg, Encoil small foes; Flying snakes bite and slash with their needle-sharp fangs, or spit acid at opponents up to ten feet away. An acid spit does 1d4 damage to tissue, hide or cloth, but does not affect metal or stone. SD Nil; SZ S; ML Steady (12); XP 120)
Room 1A:
This is the entrance that is used by the caravans and will be the entrance the player characters enter the Undercity through.

Room1B: This is the storage area for all common goods that are taken from the caravans upon arrival, waited to be sorted and assigned a delivery location. The northern exit is trapped with Glyphs of Warding (Poison, Fire and Lightning) and runs for several hundred yards to an undisclosed location within the City (DM’s choice).
Room 1C: This southern room is used for storage of all weapons taken from the caravans (except magical weapons which are given to the commander for his decision on who should wield it). There is a secret entrance to the south that leads to the long abandoned sewer system below the city. This should only benefit the party if they are cut off from all retreat and must escape somewhere, as the serpentmen have left it unused for quite a long time and barely even remember where it is.
Room 1D:
If the party is approaching from west (only), an arch provides the entrance to the room. The east room has a ramp down to the second level (the main floor). It is otherwise identical to the other entryways. If the party approaches from the north or south, they will find a closed door (unlocked) that opens into that room 1. All entry rooms have three interior doors. Each room has a rack for two scimitars (of which one is missing), a statuette of a snake, and two pallets for sleeping.
The locked and trapped (Glyphs of Warding for Electricity, Fire and Poison) eastern exit leads to an heretofore undiscovered exit/entrance to the Undercity, the DM can have the tunnels wind for miles (with appropriate underdark encounters) until it exits far from the valley of the Forbidden City in a 20x20 cave hidden by an overhang and waterfall alongside a river. A small narrow path slick with spray and water exits behind the waterfall and circles around a freshwater pool that empties into the river; the path continues into the jungle (and hopefully for the party, civilization). Inside the cavern is a cache of supplies for serpentmen consisting of 12 weeks of iron rations; several empty waterskins (can be filled by the waterfall), a crate full of fresh clothing, a small pouch with 20 gold pieces, 25 silver pieces and a 100 gp gem; a crate full of tinder, flint and torches; several (1-4 each) normal knives, spears, short swords, long swords, quarterstaffs, long and short bows, and a small crate of 100 arrows; two special seals to the Forbidden City that allow entry past the guards at the Main Entrance, and a padded leather case with 2 healing potions inside. At the DM’s option, there can also be found inside the pouch the names of several serpentmen agents in nearby villages and Port Maugre, which could lead to further adventures as these groups are rooted out and destroyed.
The chamber is not unguarded; the pool (a small but 20 ft deep freshwater basin 30x30 in diameter) the waterfall feeds into contains a Water Naga that has been raised and trained by the serpent men, leaving it corrupted and evil in temperament. It will recognize snakemen and their reptilian allies, and they are the only ones who are allowed to pass into or out of the waterfall without being attacked. Two to five rounds after voices are heard within the chamber, the naga will rise out of the pool and stick its head through the waterfall to observe who has entered; the naga will be surprised for one round as it sees unfamiliar faces and instinctively knows these are not scaly folk; it then withdraws to the bottom of it’s pool to cast spells on itself (Detect Invisible and Blur) and attacks whoever exits, striking from the safety of the pool at anyone walking the path or foolish enough to jump into the pool or stick their head through the waterfall, first with ranged spells and then by biting. If the adventurers instead hunker down inside the chamber, the Naga will simply wait them out, never leaving the water for combat; she is patient and will concede that she must outwit the party rather than foolishly attack. The Naga has no treasure except 2-20 pieces of each type of currency used on Delos, and the skeletons of past victims, all which lie at the bottom of its pool.

Water Naga (AC5, Mv’9/SW18, HD7, HP40, 0=13, Dmg 1-4 poisonous bite, ’10 long)
1st: Charm Person, Magic Missile (4), Shocking Grasp (on 1st bite)
2nd: Blur, Detect Invisibility
3rd: Slow"
All credit to Bad Mike for some great ideas on expansion  & conclusions of the events of  Dwellers In The Forbidden City.

No I'm stealing them but these are incredibly influential because they can be used as an outline to create & expand the Forbidden City into its own South Asian or China style lost world country. This is something that I'm considering doing within my own Ancient & Accursed Terra setting.  So why I'm bringing all of this up right now & what does this have to do old school/OSR play? Well when your PC's go from 1st to the upper levels of play there is a good chance that might take on the role of rulers of a small jungle or lost world kingdom. This is something that I've been speaking with friends about last night and the suggestions that we came up with for a kick ass lost world take on.

Sure this is the promise of Adventurer,Conqueror, King, and even Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea but by using this old school classic formula the PC's will be carving out their own petty kingdoms in the lost world jungles ala 'Apocalypse Now' in no time. That is if they survive the experience! My advise is to bring plenty of extra character sheets.

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