Summary & informal review of an interesting Module:L3

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Summary & informal review of an interesting Module:L3

Postby RPG Dinosaur » Sat May 21, 2016 5:30 pm

Thanks to Ron Redmond, I am thrilled to have recently gotten my hands on copies of two modules, one of which was L3 Deep Dwarven Delve. If you’re saying to yourself “L3? I remember L1 The Secret of Bone Hill and L2 The Assassins Knot, but not any L3!” It’s because it was never published until the release of the TSR Silver Anniversary Box Set. The author of all three modules, Len Lakofka, wrote in a Foreword for Deep Dwarven Delve that “turmoil at TSR prevented L3 from coming out.” The module was an entertaining read, I know that that isn't what really counts, but some modules who play fantastic are actually sort of dry to read. When it comes to my opinions about the things that are done well and things that could be improved please keep in mind two points: 1: I have not DM Judged this module whatsoever. 2. A team of guys consisting of Ryan S. Dancey, Keith F. Strohm and Christopher Perkins are listed in the modules credits under the category of ‘Silver Anniversary Polishing’, so some of Mr. Lakofka’s creation has been altered, maybe if only slightly. Finally, major SPOILERS follow.
This is the description for the module off of the cover:
“This module has lain unseen and forgotten in the TSR design vault for twenty years. Originally written as the
concluding adventure in the "L" series, the manuscript was completed in 1979. As a part of the celebration
of the Silver Anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons® game, we've unearthed this classic adventure and
present it here for the very first time—the last 1st Edition AD&D® Module ever to be published!
Your party of stalwart heroes must venture into a lost dwarven mining complex, fighting terrible monsters,
bypassing deadly traps, and exploring chambers heavy with the dust of ages. Somewhere deep below
the surface lies the heart of darkness—a corrupting evil that must be stopped before its influence can
spread!
If you find this module intriguing, look for the TSR logo on future publications from THE GAME WIZARDS!”

Here are the Background Notes, Notes for the DM and Preparing for Play Notes so that you’ll know what I’m talking about in my review.
BACKGROUND
“Something must be done! For months, marauding humanoids have been attacking the small towns of Restenford and Lake Farmin. Normally, these raids take the form of quick strikes to steal livestock or to burn outlying farm buildings. The most recent engagement was much more serious. Three days ago, a group of well organized and quipped orcs, bugbears, and ogres descended on Restenford and engaged in a pitched battle with the local militia. Several soldiers were killed, and more than a dozen were wounded. In the fighting, the town hall was put to the torch. The townsfolk watched in horror as the structure burned, presumably killing everyone inside. The humanoids were driven off just before dawn. One member of the militia, a ranger, tracked the humanoids back to their lair. Unfortunately, the creatures spotted the ranger hiding in the scrub and fired at her with their crossbows. Despite severe injuries, she eluded her pursuers and managed to return to Lake Farmin with directions to the raider's stronghold. Now she lies unconscious and near death, tended by the local healers. The call for help has gone out to the surrounding lands. Your party made all haste to reach the Restenford region and is first to the scene of the disaster. Now, you have been called into a meeting of the combined councils of both towns to answer their plea for aid. Somewhere in the dark wilderness nearby lurks a great threat to the peace of this region, and you are here to ensure that threat is dealt with quickly!”

NOTES FOR THE DM
“All is far from well in the lands around Lake Farmin and Restenford. Events long forgotten have taken center stage in a drama of great peril for the
entire region. More than two hundred years ago, dwarven miners secretly constructed an underground Delve to extract the rare metal mithril from a rich vein close to the two towns. Unwilling to share the rewards of their labor, the dwarves concealed their presence from the nearby communities. Then something went terribly wrong deep in the mine, though no one—not even the dwarven clan that sponsored the dig—knows what transpired beneath the earth. When contact was lost with the mine, the dwarves sent an armed party to investigate. The group was lead by Khorliss Foesmiter, a powerful fighter who was at the time a living legend among his kin, best known for his fantastic magical sword and his exploits in fighting the
drow. Neither Foesmiter nor any of his party ever returned. Unwilling to risk further losses or a chance of detection by the residents of Restenford and Lake Farmin, the dwarves decided to abandon the mine and destroy all records of its existence.”

The Mists of Time
“As the dwarves carved ever deeper shafts following the vein of mithril, they broke through into a hidden chamber, one created far below the surface when the world was young. The shrine was dedicated to a powerful force of pure evil, the arch-devil Baalzebul. The arch-devil was cunningly twisted the allegiance of some of the miners who found his long-lost fane. Those under his influence concealed the breakthrough into Baalzebul's shrine and began an insidious campaign to take control of the mining complex from within. The most powerful agent of Baalzebul was a cleric who was dissatisfied with his standing in the dwarven community and who sought to increase his power. With Baalzebul's aid, this dwarf, Frelpic, constructed a powerful iron golem, supposedly to assist in the mining. Once the construct was fully animated, Baalzebul sent an evil spirit to possess the golem. In one long, bloody night, the entire dwarven force was murdered. Frelpic alone was allowed to live. However, the cleric was driven insane by his contact with the arch-devil and the role he played in the murder of his comrades. When Khorliss Foesmiter investigated the Delve, the villains overcame him and his comrades. Following this encounter, Frelpic, the iron golem, two summoned devils loyal to Baalzebul, and a spirit naga residing in the Delve ensured that Baalzebul would have time to work his fell plans without further danger of discovery. Given no other orders by the wicked Baalzebul, Frelpic animated the corpses of many
of his former companions and returned to the work of mining the mithril ore. Meanwhile, Baalzebul continued to expand his malign influence, using the chamber consecrated to him as a
focus for his efforts. Although it has taken nearly twenty decades, the arch-devil's persistent call has finally attracted a suitable army of mortal followers: the humanoid forces that now control the upper level of the Delve. From this protected position, Baalzebul hopes to expand his sphere of control across the entire region—a disaster of unmitigated proportions for all life nearby.”

PREPARING TO PLAY
“The Deep Dwarven Delve can be played as two linked adventures; first as a humanoid stronghold (Level One), and second as a hidden treasure store and place of great evil (Levels Two and Three). The PCs are the first outsiders to visit the Delve since the arch-devil's takeover. If they can successfully destroy the monstrous creatures that now inhabit the Delve and demolish Baalzebul's shrine, they will earn the gratitude (and rewards) justly due such heroes! The joint council of the two towns make whatever reasonable offer is necessary to induce the heroes to undertake this mission. They provide the directions to the Delve, as well as any type of standard gear the adventurers require at the prices listed in the PLAYER'S HANDBOOK. They have no magical items, potions, or scrolls, and the local clerics are busy tending to the wounds of the townsfolk. Thus, the PCs must be responsible for their own healing. The council can offer a reward of 100 gp per slain humanoid as a bounty (the severed heads must be provided as proof), and they estimate at least twenty creatures lurk within the hideout. If the PCs require further inducement, one or both of the following conditions may be implemented at the DM's discretion: 1. The raiders stole a holy relic during their attack. The healers require this item to receive the spells necessary to tend to the wounded. Without it, many more might die. (The relic, a gold chalice, is worth 200 gp and is found in area 7 if introduced.) It has the ability to give any cleric who uses it as a normal part of religious services the ability to cast two additional cure light wounds spells each day.) Returning the chalice earns each hero 500 experience points. 2. After searching through the burned ruins of the town hall, it became clear that the mayor of Restenford did not perish in the conflagration. Obviously, he was taken by the raiders and is being held captive in their stronghold. Who knows what vile tortures the humanoids are even now using on the popular mayor? If introduced, the mayor is found badly wounded (1 hit point remaining and unconscious) in area 6. If he is returned to the town safely, the PCs earn 500 experience points each, and the mayor arranges for them to receive free room and board for life whenever they visit Restenford. The players should be prepared to spend more than one game session penetrating the Delve. The group should include six to ten characters; the highest-level character should be 6th level and the lowest 3rd level. A group that encompasses all the major classes and races has the best chance of success. Here is a suggested PC party composition: Two to four fighters, perhaps one ranger of levels 3-5, with possibly one of level 6. A dwarf or gnome should be included. They should each have at least one magical item, either a weapon, suit of armor, or shield with a maximum bonus of +2. Miscellaneous magic, if any, should be minor or defensive: A bag of holding, boots of speed, a luckstone, a potion of healing, or an arrow of direction would be good choices. One or two thieves of levels 4-5. One should be a dwarf or gnome. Again only minor magical items and a maximum magical weapon bonus of +2. Perhaps bracers of defense AC 4, 5 or 6, a ring of protection +1, or a potion of gaseousform. One or two clerics, and perhaps a druid, of levels 3-5. They should have one magical weapon per character (but no maces of disruption) and perhaps a suit of chain mail +1 or a shield +1. They might also have 3-4 vials of holy water, a scroll of neutralize poison, or a potion of extrahealing. One or two magic-users (preferably not an illusionist) of levels 3 or 4, or possibly one of level 5. The magic-users might have a single protection item each, a magical dagger (maximum bonus of +2), a wand of magic detection with 2-5 charges,or a single attack wand (such as a wand of fire, frost, lightning, or paralyzation, but not polymorphing) with about 3 charges. The average level of the party should be 4 at most, with no more than 45 total levels. (About 35 total levels is recommended.)”

Let’s get the not so good out of the way first:
WITHOUT HAVING DM JUDGED IT, THINGS I THINK COULD BE IMPROVED ON

* In referencing an event described in the Notes for the DM I can’t understand why Baalzebul would have the Iron Golem possessed by an evil spirit and “In one long bloody night, the entire dwarven force was murdered. Frelpic alone was allowed to live.” Why wouldn’t Baalzebul keep ALL the dwarves who cast their allegiance to him alive? They (the slain dwarves) could have fortified the upper level that much quicker (instead of it taking twenty decades to bring in the humanoids) and if they perished then just be Reanimated by Frelpic, which is what happened anyway.

* This module doesn’t make use of what I consider to be huge assets about both L1 and L2, that being that both of them contain well fleshed out thoroughly designed towns. The Background for this module claims that the PC’s “have been called into a meeting of the combined councils of both towns to answer their plea for aid.” Well, that pretty much ignores the events of L2 when the Mayor of Lake Farmin (which is really Garroten renamed) made a huge power play with the local Assassins Guild to try and seize power in Restenford. I can reluctantly accept that argument that the powers-that-be for both towns are ‘setting aside points of contention’ in order to face a grave, mutual threat, but this skipping over continuity shouldn’t prevent two things: 1: As the Preparing to Play section indicates, there should be dwarven or gnome characters in the party and I think that there should be those type of NPC characters available in the towns for immediate use if none of the PC’s are of that race. They could easily have been written in as wandering adventurer friends or relatives of the dwarven owner of Falco’s Tavern in Restenford, and not related to the greedy dwarves who started the Delve.
2. The Preparing to Play section also says that the PC’s are responsible for their own healing. This despite the fact that there are two churches of non evil alignment in Restenford and Lake Farmin, an NPC cleric who sells Cure Light Wounds spells in Lake Farmin and a non evil church in the nearby Dweomer Forest. I know that it says that all the clerics are too busy to helping the wounded town residents to accommodate the PC’s, but it shouldn’t be that way. There is a lot of combat in this module and the players need a more reliable source of healing, and maybe even access to the one cleric who has a Raise Dead spell in Lake Farmin.

* In the last room of the Delve, the Temple of Baalzebul, there is a large brazier with magical endless fuel that burns constantly. Every ten rounds the flames roar higher and inflict 1d6 of burn damage. Additionally, this flaring also summons a Lemure from hell to fight the PC’s. The brazier also flares whenever a Lemure is killed and another one is summoned immediately and the only way to stop this is to close the gate to hell in the Temple.
This is accomplished by climbing up and destroying or otherwise figuring out how to destroy two gems from the eye sockets of a 50 foot statue of Baalzebul. This is AFTER the PCs have already had to go through a barbed devil, a bone devil and the Iron Golem. Damn! 8O I dislike the ‘stacking of the deck’ so much against the PCs, with the continuous stream of Lemures (remember, those mo’fo’s regenerate), and again this is on top of burn damage every time the brazier flares.

WITHOUT HAVING DM JUDGED IT, THINGS I LIKE ABOUT IT

* The author included a comprehensive, logical and well thought out plan for what happens if the PC’s leave the Delve and how the inhabitants prepare for their return. This includes Frelpic the evil Cleric using a Reanimate Dead spell to bring slain humanoids (and even slain PC’s if their fellow adventurers weren’t willing or were unable to take the corpses with them) back into the picture. Not all commercial modules had this. That being said:

* There are two entrances to the Delve, both of which are always guarded by orcs, and one of them attempts to blow an alarm horn at the first sign of an intrusion attempt. Mr. Lakofka gives the DM some creative latitude to organize the armed response of the rest of the Delves inhabitants if the party isn’t able to get by undetected or stop the alarm horn from being blown. Lakofka does provide some encouragement for how the DM should do this, “When possible have them attack from more than one direction at once, using the interconnecting hallways and secret doors to advantage” and “make full use of ranged attacks to disrupt spellcasters and inflict damage from a distance.” I think that it’s a positive that the DM Judge gets to potentially participate in organizing strike teams.

* The module has a good balance of monsters, the occasional trap and the occasional nearly empty, non-action room. The players should be engaged, excited and on their toes throughout the whole adventure.

* The Delve makes sense. Other than my questioning of Baalzebuls having the Golem kill loyal dwarves, the plot of the dwarves starting the Delve and accidentely breaching the arch-devils temple is tight and makes sense. The layout of the map often has the rooms spiraling down in a semi-circular clockwise pattern. How do I know that they are spiraling down you ask? Their locations beneath the ground are noted on the map (-600, -670, etc.) and, once more, makes good sense for a mine.

* The Temple of Baalzebul is developed especially well in terms of atmosphere which is appropriately correct i.e. forbidding and creepy :bat: , for a temple dedicated to an arch-devil. No DM Judge would have any problem effectively describing this to his/her party.

* The art is good, especially the cover. Kudo’s to Dawn Murin credited with the Art Direction and Wayne Reynolds for the Illustrations.

If anybody has actually played the Deep Dwarven Delve, please share with us your experience with it and your impressions of L3.
_Matt_
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Re: Summary & informal review of an interesting Module:L3

Postby GenghisDon » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:25 pm

I thought it was pretty cool, although it seems somewhat of a departure from L1 & L2. some REALLY strong magic items (& possibly foes as well). I like it a fair bit, but never ran it all the way through.

Ron is a great guy BTW :up: :charge

My thoughts mirror yours on L3
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Re: Summary & informal review of an interesting Module:L3

Postby rredmond » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:08 am

Gawrsh! Thanks Don! :)
I'm a few months too late for the complement, but I'll take it anyway! :elf: :up:
& Magazine - www.and-mag.com/
I play at www.unseenservant.us/
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