Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Damnation & The Final Confrontation In Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits By Gary Gygax & David C. Sutherland III

"How different things seem now from when you undertook the crushing of a few rebellious hill giants! What seemed a simple adventure has turned into a major expedition. Much time has passed since you discovered the conspiracy that led you to the frost giants, fire giants, and eventually to the long-forgotten Drow. Through your encounter with the dark elves, you have found the true source of the evil -- the demon queen Lolth!"

So three things happened last night, one I was able to order the Lion & Dragon hardcover because the current code for Lulu publishing  is LULU20 which gives 20% off of all print books. The second thing that happened is that I started to talk with a friend about Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits By David C. Sutherland III, & Gary Gygax.

I have very mixed feeling about this module so much so that it gave me pause to put up a blog entry last night. Q1 hit the shelves in 1980 & our group didn't get to play it until about '87 after we had completed a number of higher level Wagner inspired Norse opera adventures. Our group of players in '87  slogged our way through Q1 losing about six of our beloved PC's on the way. It was glorious! This is a level ten through fourteen PC adventure with all of the bells & death that go with it.
For me personally it also marks one of the turning points in classic era TSR writing & design according to the Drivethrurpg entry for Q1 the real story behind the scenes comes out;"

It turns out that Gygax was putting on a good face, and that Q1 was in fact produced against his express wishes, apparently at the insistence of Gygax's partner, Brian Blume. It would be the first outward sign of a division in the company that would lead to its takeover by Brian and his brother Kevin in 1982, and Gygax's subsequent exile to California (where he'd get the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on the air).
If you look closer at Q1, you can see the cracks - i.e., that it's not actually the sequel Gygax intended. A careful reading of the G- and D-series modules suggests that the villain of the piece was the Eilservs drow clan, who worshiped the Elder Elemental God. If anything, Lolth should have been an erstwhile ally for the player characters in a final adventure against the EEG, rather than a final foe.
Gygax said that the villain got changed after Sutherland discovered the "demonweb" pattern in a hand towel and talked Blume into making Lolth the Big Bad."

The whole module is problematic from a Medieval stand point & there's a whole bunch of back story stuff that has to be changed right off the mark. The fact is that the placement of Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits would have to take place in the Underworld. I'm talking about the classic pseudo  Greek Underworld of classic literature which borders on the lands of fairyland & the Christian Hell. This adventure is going to border on the Lamentations of the Flame Princess style where the PC's are thrown to the wolves erm spiders.

Erol Otus, Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits

The forces of the Elves are getting squeezed at the Gods get involved with the arrival of the Black Death on Europe's door step. The war's time line moves along with every battle & massive event of the Hundred Years war right in time to the PC's hex crawling along.
"In 1348, the Black Death, which had just arrived in Paris, began to ravage Europe.[32] In 1355, after the plague had passed and England was able to recover financially,[citation needed] King Edward's son and namesake, the Prince of Wales, later known as the Black Prince, led a Chevauchée from Gascony into France, during which he pillaged Avignonet and Castelnaudary, sacked Carcassonne, and plundered Narbonne. The next year during another Chevauchée he ravaged Auvergne, Limousin, and Berry but failed to take Bourges. He offered terms of peace to King John II of France (known as John the Good), who had outflanked him near Poitiers, but refused to surrender himself as the price of their acceptance. This led to the Battle of Poitiers (19 September 1356) where his army routed the French.[33] During the battle, the Gascon noble Jean de Grailly, captal de Buch led a mounted unit that was concealed in a forest. The French advance was contained, at which point de Grailly led a flanking movement with his horsemen cutting off the French retreat and succeeding in capturing King John and many of his nobles.[34][35] With John held hostage, his son the Dauphin (later to become Charles V) assumed the powers of the king as regent." France is being ravaged as the Deep Ones take full advantage by releasing the Black Death as a WMD only to have it ravage the entire human population that their trying to enslave. The PC's are stuck in the Underworld trying to get back topside trying deal with the BS of the Underworld whist dodging the Elves & demonic forces! The portals to Fairyland are the goddess of death turning the wheel to gain more of her hold as the coming plague ravages Europe.

Battle of Crécy, 1346

Meanwhile alliances of witch cults, humanoid chaos mutants, and much worse allows deadly epidemics, famines, and bandit free-companies of mercenaries reduced the population of Europe to a much more manageable size. This all interweaves through  Lolth's webs, where the PC's are confronted by Lolth's minions, slaves, guards and captives but these are her agents spreading her evil throughout Europe. By the time we get to Battle of Agincourt Europe is becoming exhausted.
We've got the
Death of Clarence (1421) & The English Success right in the middle of the Hundred Years war as Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits wraps up. That's it right?!? Nope although it seems as if the Death Goddess of Elves is down & out the Elves forces have only taken it on the chin. Sure she's down but the Frog Princes have cemented their hold on France for the moment.

Fifteenth-century miniature depicting the Battle of Agincourt.

This is not going to be good for 'the Church' at all. They'll have to rally their own forces in the priests & clerics especially for France. The Deep Ones are not going to be expecting the appearance of Joan of Arc at the siege of Orléans sparked a revival of French spirit, and the tide began to turn against the English. Here the forces of the gods & God are going to take a hand to make sure Europe isn't lost.
One thing to  understand is the scale of Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits & the Hundred Years War. These are epic clashes and it sure seemed like the end of the civilized world at the time for Europe.
The black plague unleashed upon Europe was spread by humanity, so could there be other forces at work within the underworld almost about to unleash horrors from Tarartus itself?

PC's that survive their time in the Underworld are never going to be the same again. They're going to be rich but also within the purview of powers beyond their reason. The Church is going to have them dead within their sights & they're also going to be families of renowned within court. I don't see these folks being from the lower strata of society & also not being of lower social standing.
We're right in the middle of the events of the Hundred Years War & so other family members & party members are going to have to take the places of earlier adventurers. This is something that any Pendragon player is going to be familiar with. Some D&D DM's & players may have done something similar. This of course is all alternative history with real world elements mixed in. 

Anyone whose a fan of Clark Ashton Smith is going to see the resemblance of Lolth to CAS's Atlach-Nacha. I've seen more then a few folks switch out these deities in the past to get a more Smithian constant to Q1 Queen of the Demon Web Pits. The cults could be interchanged but there would have to be an uptick into using Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos to flesh out a bit more of the elves chaos witch cults in my humble opinion. Q1 Queen of the Demon Webpits isn't the end because we're right in the middle of the Hundred Years War.

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