Monday, February 6, 2023

The OSR Legacy Of S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth By Gary Gygax & The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (1976)

 There are the rare of the absolute rare of the collectables & tonight I came across Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (1976) – The Original Edition of AD&D Module S4 on Wayne's Books blog. This is the original tourament module from WinterCon V, a gaming convention sponsored by the Metro Detroit Gamers (MDG) in 1976. According to the S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth By Gary Gygax wiki entry there are balantantly obvious differences between the '76 convention module & the expanded version. 

The original convention module took full advantage of the tourament style of the convention presentation. According to the wiki entry's publication history the '76 version was critical in the formation the Greyhawk campaign as we know it today; "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is a revised and expanded version of The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth, a tournament adventure that Gygax wrote for WinterCon V, a gaming convention sponsored by the Metro Detroit Gamers (MDG) in 1976.[4] It is based in part on one of Rob Kuntz's dungeon levels, as Kuntz helped Gygax revise the tournament version.[5] This original version consisted of eight loose sheets, an outer folder, and a zip-locked bag; only several hundred copies were printed.[4] In the May 1980 issue of Dragon, Gygax said "Rob Kuntz has the reworked Lost Caverns module which must be finalized" and that "We want to get it into print as soon as possible."[6] Lawrence Schick later suggested that "there's evidence that Gary considered Tsojcanth part of a longer Greyhawk campaign, placing the adventure between T1–T4 The Temple of Elemental Evil and WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. (By this reckoning, The Village of HommletThe Temple of Elemental Evil, and Tsojcanth are thus the "lost" WG1 through WG3 modules.) So, Tsojcanth was published in the S series because it got completed out of order, but was too good to delay." The interesting part of this is how deeply the Pulp genre is embedded within the DNA of both the tourament & the revised module of S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth By Gary Gygax. The expanded version has been a part of so many gamers lives. 

Wht makes S4 so memoriable is the way the Wilderness is as much of an NPC unto itself as the rest of the adventure plot. We can see this within the adventure plot & the way the Pulpy Sword & Sorcery wilderness play with the PC's; "The introduction, with instructions that the Dungeon Master read it aloud to the players, outlines that there is a treasure in the Yatil Mountains south of the Greyhawk realm of Perrenland. The player characters must investigate rumors of a lost treasure that scores of adventurers have perished attempting to find.[2] The treasure is a remnant of the wealth amassed by the archmage Iggwilv,[2] former ruler of Perrenland, prior to her presumed death at the hands of the demon Graz'zt, whom she had "imprisoned and forced into servitude."[3]: 2  The players must first traverse a wilderness area with 20 numbered encounters before arriving at the caverns. The encounters have names such as "Border Patrol" (encounter 1) and "Hill Giants" (encounter 10). After the wilderness are two lettered encounters: the "Gnome Vale", which includes a map for their lair, and "The Craggy Dells", where humans and orcs are capturing hippogriffs to sell."  Here the adventure plot & thencounters fit together like an action adventure film to move the PC's from one deadly encounter to another. And S4 is so very much wrapped up with Gygax's "official" version of Greyhawk especially some of the major NPC's ; "Next, the player characters reach the caverns. They consist of the "Lesser Caverns" with 22 encounters, and the "Greater Caverns" with 20 encounters, each with its own map. The lesser caverns include encounters such as "Stinking Cave" (encounter 5) which contains four trolls and "Underground Lake" (encounter 14). The greater caverns include encounters such as "Uneven-Floored Cavern" (encounter 5) where the player characters face an umber hulk and "Canyon of Centaurs" (encounter 9). The 20th and final encounter is titled "The Inner Sphere". Here, a "woman sleeps on an alabaster slab." She is "armored from toe to neck in gold chased plate mail."[3]: 29  The woman is actually Drelnza, a fighter/vampire and the daughter of Iggwilv. After defeating Drelnza, the players are rewarded with treasure, and the adventure ends." 
Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (1976) reveals several rather obvious & interesting things about this classic module: 

  1. The revisions of the Lost Caverns 1976 were to put the original manuscript into the classic module status.
  2. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition's tourament style of play was going to be the way forward. Consumer tastes & marketing trends changed the direction of the Grand Game. 
  3. S4 had so much in common with the Pulp literature that inspired it. 
  4. Even though this convention module was so rough & ready it looks like a Hell of a lot of deadly fun. 
  5. There a lot coolness about the convention manuscript map! This thing reeks of old school AD&D to me. 
  6. '76 version of Tsojconth just looks absolutely deadly. 
  7. Encounters within Tsojconth don't look balanced at all! 
  8. Looking over the maps  bring extra characters for this one! 
  9. The Gygax classic looks to be the superior product but the original looks like a blast. 
  10. This Con 76 version of the classic module is such a part of gaming history.

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