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    Canonfire :: View topic - Boxed Set Adventures
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    Boxed Set Adventures
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Dec 11, 2022 12:51 pm  
    Boxed Set Adventures

    For a while there in the First and Second edition time frame, there were a lot of official TSR boxed sets released. The idea of a boxed set is that you could have multiple soft cover books of information, poster sized maps, and assorted handout and other goodies all put together. More than what you could include in a typical adventure module or rulebook.

    For Greyhawk, the obvious boxed sets are the settings for the entire world. The original World of Greyhawk boxed set had the glossography of Oerth in one book, the Guide to Greyhawk in another book, and the famous Darlene maps of the Flanaess.

    From the Ashes had the equivalent of all of those items, plus another set of maps detailing the City of Greyhawk region. There were also some cardstocks that held encounter tables, short adventures, some information regarding new spells, and deity information. Some new monsters (done as inserts in the Monstrous Compendium format designed to be added to that binder). That was truly a boxed set loaded to the brim!

    Released in between these two was the City of Greyhawk boxed set, another motherload of Greyhawk goodness. There was a book gazetteer of the city, a Folks, Feuds, and Factions book, many cardstocks of adventures, and poster sized maps of the city and the region around it.

    Yet another Greyhawk boxed set was the Greyhawk Wars. The history of the Wars booklet was the best part, but you got an entire wargame with this set.

    My point in all this exposition is that Greyhawk had a history of having epic sized boxed sets of products that detailed either the world, or a major region. Those items are legendary in this community for the value they have given to the setting and background. But there were some adventures that received the boxed set treatment. I will be doing some reviews of these products in this thread - hopefully get some discussion going on these sets and their impact and playability on the WoG in general.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Thu Dec 15, 2022 7:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
    CF Admin

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    Mon Dec 12, 2022 9:18 pm  
    Re: Boxed Set Adventures

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:

    My point in all this exposition is that Greyhawk had a history of having epic sized boxed sets of products that detailed either the world, or a major region. Those items are legendary in this community for the value they have given to the setting and background. But there were some adventures that received the boxed set treatment. I will be doing some reviews of these products in this thread - hopefully get some discussion going on these sets and their impact and playability on the WoG in general.


    Looking forward to your reviews, O-D! :D

    Allan.
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 15, 2022 8:04 pm  
    Reviewing box sets

    Ok, first let me give my ground rules for these reviews.

    I am sticking to boxed sets of adventures. The aforementioned boxed sets were campaign supplements or city settings, not adventures. So I will stick to just those "maxi-modules" from the first and second editions.

    I will give my usual pros and cons of each. But a couple things specific to these reviews will be 1) their usefulness/place in the Greyhawk setting and 2) what extras you get in the box. Bottom line will be whether this set is worth the box based on the amount of goodies you get in the set.

    So I will begin with my most recent acquisition.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Dec 17, 2022 8:02 am  
    The Night Below

    So to start off, I am going to break one of my own rules - I am reviewing a boxed set which I do not own the box. I got the Night Below on print-on-demand recently and have been reading and rereading it ever since. Getting this adventure is what inspired me to start this thread, as I saw that the "maxi-modules" in the boxed sets could use a review.

    So my initial impressions on the boxed will be a bit skewed as I can't really review all the handouts and maps as they come in the boxed set. But if you are getting this product now, order it on pdf format and print out the necessary parts and you will be fine. And there are a lot of handouts and maps to go through.

    I will start with the Pros of this adventure, then the Cons, then an overall review. So here goes, and just in case you are like me and missed out on this one from back in the day - SPOILERS ahead.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Tue Dec 20, 2022 5:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:21 pm  
    The Positives of Night Below

    Starting with the positives of Night Below:

    Pros: This setting, while officially neutral, really is a Greyhawk adventure in tone and style. The designer, Carl Sargent, wrote many of the 2nd ed supplements, and I think that the Greyhawk tone fits well with the other adventures of this time. Anna Meyer put the location of this adventure series in southern Yeomanry, and I think that perfectly fits in with the adventure as written. Additionally, some fans on the CF forums created a map of the Underdark merging the maps from this series, the GDQ series, and the Dungeon adventure "Kingdom of the Ghouls" into one large megamap. So it fits in seamlessly with other Greyhawk products.

    The adventure itself is really more of an adventure path. It advertises that it can take your players from 1st level to 10th and beyond. I will get into the finer points of that aspect later, but I like the set up - it begins easily enough, with low level characters becoming involved in investigating some kidnappings by bandits in a rural setting. After tracking down the kidnappers to some orc caverns, it is discovered that these crimes were just the tip of the iceberg, that some evil power from far below the earth is targeting spellcasters for some profane ritual. Turns out that it is the alien aboleth with their kuo toan allies directing the plot.

    I liked having the aboleth as the principles in this module. They have bizarre motivations, a cosmic horror vibe to them, and are not overused as typical underdark villains. Additionally, there are new creatures to fight (underworld ixitxachitlss) along with familiar ones, mind flayers and kuo toa, that make this part seem both an homage to the GDQ series and taking that idea in a different direction.

    This is challenging, dangerous, and a long term series of adventures. With all the handouts and maps, the boxed set is huge and well worth collecting. Having loved the classic GDQ series, this may be the perfect adventure to spring on a party familiar with that series, wanting to experience the same feeling of wonder with a similar but different feel.

    This adventure delivers on all that. There is a lot to say on the positive side of the ledger, but I will touch upon some of the downsides next.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 20, 2022 6:27 pm  
    The Cons of Night Below

    Now for the downsides.

    Cons: The adventure path takes your PCs from first level all the way to tenth and beyond. That is a lot of progress to make and under the old edition rules, your PCs are not likely to advance at rate needed in order to face the exponentially growing hazards of the Underdark. The really big beef with this adventure is that you go from orcs right into grells, oozes, trolls, kuo toans, and other high level monsters almost as soon as you enter the Underdark. The designer recognizes this, and recommends at various points in the narrative to allow the party to get more experience elsewhere if needed.

    Fortunately, if you set this adventure in the Yeomanry, there are ample published materials that take place in this area so that you can give your PCs a break and come back to the Underdark with more items and experience. For low level adventures, there is the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands module, the U series, the UK series, and (if you are really desperate) Gargoyle, all set in the southern Yeomanry/Sea Princes area. For mid level adventures, The Tomb of the Lizard King and Baltron's Beacon are available to get the PCs some needed extra experience.

    Another characteristic of this adventure is the need to be diplomatic. Tying in with the previous comment, it is likely your adventuring group will need assistance throughout their adventures in the Underdark. It is just too dangerous otherwise. There are groups that can provide alliances scattered in the caverns below: deep gnomes, renegade derro, separatist illithids, even a groups of demons can offer some alliance to the PCs. The problem with all that is that it can get confusing and difficult to adjudicate what each of these groups wants from the PCs and what actions may alienate them from cooperating in the future. Some DMs may not have the inclination to keep track of all these alliances and actions as the adventure progresses.

    Finally, there is introduced in this adventure a new sub race of elves that live in the underworld but are not drow - the Rockseers. The introduction of these elves is meant to be some of the best assistance that can be provided to the PCs, but to meet them is very difficult. Some argument can be made is that as a subrace, these elves are not necessary and even mucks up the already crowded network of elf races in the world. Their inclusion is clearly meant to be an epic level event in the elvish world. This plot point should be treated very carefully if you want to include it in your game world.

    As for me, it can be bypassed but again, the PCs will need to get some assistance through another source if this plot point is not used.

    The cons for this adventure boil down to matters of taste, so I am really kind of stretching here to put these points in the negative column. My overall assessment to follow.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Sat Feb 18, 2023 8:39 am; edited 1 time in total
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 28, 2022 6:51 pm  
    Night Below Summary

    So my overall assessment of Night Below is that this is something that a Greyhawk fan should definitely have in their collection. Various people have placed it in the Flanaess, and it fits very well with established locations and products. While I cannot really evaluate the value of the boxed set, I can see from the print on demand version that it is loaded with maps, booklets and handouts, making it a good value and worth purchasing.

    There may be problems with strictly following the path as written, especially as the danger level rises, but that is fairly correctable. I view this as a 2e version of the D series of adventures, and I think it is a worthy effort. The plot is familiar but with enough differences to create a different role playing experience from other Underdark adventures.

    For additional information to supplement Night Below, check out articles in Dragon Magazine #131 for tables on travelling in underworld tunnels as well as an alternate look at the aboleth (this article gives an alternate view of the aboleth, as creatures of science, but it can mesh in with Night Below, so check it out for inspiration).

    So overall, I give it four stars out of five, spring it on your characters and use some of the epic plot points to make a mark on your Greyhawk campaigns.

    O-D
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    Thu Dec 29, 2022 12:06 pm  

    I don't actually like the Night Below on the account that the aboleth are too deadly for my tastes with their domination and mucus membrane attacks. Their 2nd edition stats list the number appearing as 1d4, and I think that's about right for them; I don't want an entire city of them.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 07, 2023 4:23 pm  
    Return to the Tomb of Horrors

    Now I am getting into my actual boxed collections, and let's start with the big one: Return to the Tomb of Horrors!

    The basics: in the box we have one large 160 page adventure book, a booklet of 59 illustrations, a handout of a journal, a map and new monsters booklet, a card stock handout, and a full reprint of the original S1 module. That makes this boxed set a genuine value just based on the amount of materials it gives you.

    The Greyhawk connection is strong here, as it makes canonical the location of the original Tomb in the Vast Swamp. As an overview, this adventure is to take place after some parties have found and looted the Tomb - not necessarily the PCs for this adventure, but even if your group has done the original S1 module, there is enough new materials here that it will not likely make too much of a difference. You see, after some ages of luring in adventurers and killing them, a group of necromancers made a pilgrimage to the site of the Tomb and erected an evil school of necromancy on the spot. As followers of Acererak, they are studying dark energies that are coming from the tomb. These dark energies are making undead start to rise in the lands beyond the swamp.

    Thus, our current PCs find out about this "dark intrusion" and follow the clues into the swamp, infiltrate the necromancy school, and have to enter into the original Tomb of Horrors in order to stop this dar intrusion at its source.

    Let that sink in - you have to negotiate the original S1 module, the original death trap dungeon, at the mid point of this adventure with promises of worse to come! Talk about high stakes!

    I'll go over some more details in the near future, this was to be part of what was called the "Tomes" collection - a series of unrelated adventures that dealt with some artifacts/epic adventures in the 2nd edition. With this boxed set, the series had strong potential.

    More to follow...
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:18 am  
    Some more preface to the boxed set

    Before I dive into the pros and cons of the adventure itself, there are some additional materials I want to cover.

    In the original Tomb of Horrors, there was a list of six possible locations for the tomb in the world of Greyhawk. People have used these other possible locations to create false tombs of horror that the demi-lich Acererak uses to befuddle those who would attempt to loot his real tomb. I think one can use these false tombs as a way to warm up the party for the real thing, dropping clues as to how to avoid death in the real deal.

    One downloadable module was set in the Land of Iuz and is available on Dragonsfoot here:

    https://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=FE&fileid=308&watchfile=0

    Another version (which can mesh in quite well with the previous one) is in Issue 17 of Footprints, here:

    https://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=FT&fileid=305

    Both of these can serve as preambles to this adventure and are decent challenges in their own right.

    Other resources that can add some more depth/background to this adventure are found in Dragon Magazine. In Issue 249 there is an add on "Below the Tomb of Horrors" which has a hidden chamber below the original tomb which houses the architect who designed the tomb's undead spirit. As with the false tombs, this can be used as an extra source of lore and clues as to how to deal with the traps in the real tomb.

    In Dragon Issue 225 is a spellbook, Acererak's Libram, that can contain some bits of advice for negotiating the tomb if the DM is feeling charitable. There is an adventure hook in the article that has the party having to save the book from destruction before they can even read it that may be a nice lead into involving the party in this adventure in the first place.

    So these are some other parts of the lore of Acererak that you should check up on when attempting this adventure. They collectively add some depth to the plot and can be used to sprinkle in some clues to a careful party. Try them out!


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Sun Apr 02, 2023 10:12 am; edited 1 time in total
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Feb 18, 2023 8:59 am  
    The Pros

    The positive aspects of Return to the Tomb of Horrors:

    I did like the effort made to make the tomb become more of a dynamic location. Having a school of necromancy spring up at the tomb struck me as a logical development. It made the whole venture have more purpose than the original concept of tomb raiding. Especially now that Acererack was given a goal: his own apotheosis and they fact that harvesting the souls of those who die in his tomb was the key component for that. For a high level adventure there should be high level stakes, and I believe that was done well here.

    This adventure is devilishly tough, and in that regard is a perfect homage to the original. The materials in the box are also good touches. The illustration booklet is suitably large and has plenty to assist the DM in explaining the events unfolding. Though I preferred the illustration art in the original, this does the trick. The journal included is a great touch, and the module S1 replication is very welcome.

    All in all, this is a homage to the original and a logical extension of it. I have a very positive impression with this product.

    O-D
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    Sun Feb 26, 2023 7:25 pm  
    Now for the negatives

    Now for the cons,

    As stated before, this adventure is very tough. When you add in the original Tomb of Horrors into it, it just makes a meatgrinder of a game. The last act of the adventure takes place just outside the negative plane of existence, making the exploration of a long dead mysterious city fraught with energy draining peril.

    A lot of the critiques about this adventure will circle back to what you think of the original S1. Especially because it is inserted as the middle act of the adventure. I really did not like it being shoehorned into the necromancy school. I did like the idea of a group of necromancers starting up formal studies near the place where so many had died. But the school was built right over the tomb, I think the original tomb would have been better suited to have been kept a respectful distance away from the school. That can be easily fixed.

    I would have like some more details on the necromancy school's faculty and what their larger motives were. Making them a more dynamic organization would have been a plus, although a good DM would be able to make up this on their own.

    You know when you crack open this adventure by the name alone you will be getting into TPK territory. So any real criticism of the adventure should be tempered by that principle. You are getting what is promised with this boxed set!
    CF Admin

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    Mon Feb 27, 2023 8:30 pm  
    Re: Some more preface to the boxed set

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    Before I dive into the pros and cons of the adventure itself, there are some additional materials I want to cover.


    In addition, there was an in-game artifacts available that supplemented the RttToH boxed set and ToH in general. In 1998 TSR published an in-game map that was a TSR Gold retailer promotional give-away at the time of the boxed set's release: https://www.tsrarchive.com/add/add-promo.html:



    and



    Useful as an in-game prop! :D

    Allan.
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    Sat Mar 04, 2023 1:21 pm  
    Great find!

    Grodog,

    Great find! I heard of this little promotional but never saw it before. Thanks for posting! Anyone know of any other Tomb of Horror ties ins/homebrews/additional materials? If so, please share!

    O-D
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    Sat Mar 04, 2023 4:43 pm  

    There was also a cloth map (basically a DM's map) that WotC issued at Origins around the time of the Tomb of Annihilation 5e adventure. I think that promo kit included a map, dice, dice bag, and tumbler but there may have been more too (my tumbler, alas, was broken by my father-in-law with a couple weeks of it arriving ;) ).

    Allan.
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    Thu Mar 09, 2023 1:12 pm  

    I regarded Return to the Tomb of Horrors as a campaign-killer simply because it has the original Tomb of Horrors in it. If they softened the original Tomb, then it might be workable. Though I'm also going to admit that I found Acererak's plan to merge with the Negative Material Plane equal parts epic and silly.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Mar 11, 2023 12:26 pm  
    Overall Assessment of RttToH

    My overall assessment of Return to the Tomb of Horrors is a mixed bag.

    As a piece of Greyhawk lore, by all means, this is a nice product to add to your collection. It makes the motivations of the demi-lich more important to the wider world, breaths some dynamism int he tomb of horrors, and gives Acereack some goal beyond simply killing his tomb robbers.

    As a boxed set, there is enough extra goodies in the box that makes it a good value. With illustrations, a journal hand out, the original S1, there is enough materials in here to make purchasing the boxed set worth considering. The adventure book itself could have been divided in two rather neatly, and I would have preferred that to one large book, but that is more of a nitpick.

    But as an adventure, your enjoyment of this set is probably based on what you feel about the original adventure. There is a lot more of the same in the rest of RttToH, deadly traps that brutally punish your adventurers for doing what adventurers do best - meddle around with newly discovered things. While there are more opportunities for combat, this is still a "thinking person's module" and that may not be everyone's cup of tea.

    I recommend it, as I love the positives of the adventure and do not really have issues with the S1 module to begin with. Seek it out and if you can get a boxed set with all the materials, that is a good find for your Greyhawk library. Four out of five stars.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Fri Apr 14, 2023 8:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Thu Mar 16, 2023 5:49 pm  
    One more thought on RttToh

    One final thought on the adventure, I do like the acknowledgement by the designer of the potential dangers to the characters the module presents. This is clearly illustrated by the pictures throughout the adventure book.

    The party begins with ten people and as you see individuals start to die off, you see the party shrink until at the end only three are left to toast to the memories of the departed. I like it when a module's illustrations are internally consistent like that.

    And a 70% attrition rate seems about right for this adventure!
    CF Admin

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    Fri Mar 17, 2023 11:44 am  
    Re: Boxed Set Adventures

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    For a while there in the First and Second edition time frame, there were a lot of official TSR boxed sets released. The idea of a boxed set is that you could have multiple soft cover books of information, poster sized maps, and assorted handout and other goodies all put together. More than what you could include in a typical adventure module or rulebook.

    O-D, do you plan to review boxed sets beyond Greyhawk, particularly the Al-Qadim setting?

    Other active threads have me thinking about that setting, which had several boxed sets. I didn't collect them when they were published but found Complete Book of Necromancers compelling, which drew heavily on the setting.

    Anyhow, I would love to hear your thoughts (or anyone else's) about Al-Qadim.
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    Sat Mar 18, 2023 7:08 pm  

    Check the Reviews.
    I reviewed a bunch of AQ stuff back in the day: the AQ Land of Fate book, the AQ Arabian Adventures boxed set, the City of Delights boxed set, The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, and the Complete Book of Necromancers.
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    Sat Mar 18, 2023 8:02 pm  

    Sam!

    Those were great. Thanks for originally writing them and pointing me in their direction now. I hope that you and yours are well.
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    Sat Mar 18, 2023 10:32 pm  

    Kinda surprised you didn't mention the biggest con for RttToH: the module really highlights Bruce Cordell's lack of GH research and understanding.

    The man wrote fantastic modules, but it's pretty obvious that whenever he didn't have Erik Mona following him around with a dustpan and broom that Cordell never glanced at any GH material.

    The adventure is totally generic, feeling closer to Firestorm Peak than GH.
    Kalstrand is utterly blah. No hint of the Great Kingdom's rich atmosphere or turmoil.
    If undead are roaming hundreds of miles from the swamp and crossing mountain ranges, Sunndi should be wiped off the map.
    No mention of crossing the extremely tense border into the Iron League.
    No understanding of Pitchfield.
    No references to GH's runes, gods, languages, races, heraldry, famous wizards, politics, the SB, nothing.

    In Cordell's defense, he may have written much of the module before WotC decided to revive GH or maybe even before they bought TSR.
    And even back then, WotC was beginning to downplay GH branding on its famous assets to broaden appeal for fans of other settings.

    Again, great module, but needs serious TLC to adapt to Greyhawk.
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    Fri Mar 24, 2023 6:46 pm  
    other points

    Good points Vestcoat,

    I think I gave the benefit of the doubt to the designer to focus on the tomb and make the other locations more generic for mass consumption. 2nd edition AD&D was a tough time for Greyhawk, so downplaying the specifics even in a module supposedly set in GH does not surprise me.

    I thought that the dark intrusion was less about undead moving from the Vast Swamp outwards and more that it animated dead where they lie. I grant you, the weakest part of the adventure was the opening, getting the players involved, so that is why I advise someone to utilize the false tombs, other sources, and use your own DM creativity to make a more coherent beginning.

    Frankly, making any sequel to S1 was a tall order to begin with. But I recommend you giving it a try.

    Now, I am reaching for the next boxed set on my shelf: The Rod of Seven Parts. Let's have a little discussion about that one shortly!

    O-D
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    Sun Apr 02, 2023 10:02 am  
    Rod of Seven Parts basics

    The next box on my shelf is 1996's Rod of Seven Parts. Now this was an artifact that dates way back to the earliest days of the hobby. In the 2nd edition era, TSR wanted to start up a series of maxi-adventures based on some of the old lore of 1st edition. Return to the Tomb of Horrors was one boxed set, this was another.

    The box is hefty, containing two big booklets with the adventure, a third booklet with the powers, history, and use of the rod itself, a monster booklet, six double sided cards with visual aids, three poster sized maps that are doubled sided as well (with tactical maps and DM maps of the specific areas of the adventure). Again, the TSR boxed sets do not disappoint with the amount of materials they are giving you in their boxes!

    As far the adventure's Greyhawk-ness is concerned, this is a very much generic setting. But in the build up to the release of this set, there were two articles in Dragon Magazine that give extra details, In Issue 224 there was an article going over the history of the Rod in which the designer Skip Williams alleges that he may have been the one to come up with the concept of an artifact in multiple parts. Furthermore, in Issue 233 the designer gives some specific locations where to place the adventure in Greyhawk. So there's that to place this adventure firmly in Oerth.

    So with these preliminary thoughts out of the way, I will soon give my pros and cons of this set.

    O-D
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    Sat Apr 08, 2023 4:48 pm  
    Pluses for Rod of Seven Parts

    So for the positives:

    With the aforementioned Dragon magazine article, the adventure is easily placed in Greyhawk. While there are no specific references to Oerth in the module - it is a generic 2e adventure - it is not hard to see the obvious connections in the adventure as written. Additionally, there is an adventure path that makes a reference to the Rod and the Wind Dukes - the Age of Worms. I did a write up of that adventure path here:

    http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=9138

    you can use that hook in Age of Worms as another way to introduce this adventure in a more modern edition.

    Next, I liked the very in depth look into the uses of the Rod, how to assemble it, its history and place in the multiverse, and powers. I thought that the idea of making these "Tomes" series of adventures focusing on the artifacts of yore would have made a truly great series and a highlight of second edition. (aside: unfortunately, the series never really took off, and we were left with only this, RttToH, and Axe of the Dwarvish Lords in the Tomes series).

    The adventures to claim the parts of the Rod vary, some being long term searches, a couple that the party can get the piece of the Rod through diplomacy, and some being more straight forward treasure hunts. That variety is a good thing for the pace.

    Overall, I think this was a good concept and can be a solid Greyhawk adventure to spring on your campaigns for some old edition throw back time.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Apr 12, 2023 7:50 pm  
    The negatives

    Now on to the negatives -

    Cons: While the hunt for the Rod of Seven Parts would seem to be a natural epic adventure, I could not get into the story. While your adventurers were tracking down the parts of the Rod, they are being stalked and opposed by the Queen of Chaos and her minions. These minions are the spyder fiends. First off, why did it have to be spiders? That struck me as too much like a Lolth type threat, and I want something different. Yes, these guys were wolf and spider combinations, but I think it was too much like trying to imitate the D3-Q1 threats to me.

    The general of Chaos at the Battle of Pesh was Miska the Wolf-Spider, and he seemed like what you would get when you started rolling on the old Appendix D of the DMG. There was just too much going on with his character design for my taste.

    Once your characters start piecing the Rod together, they get visits from opposing factions of the Wind Dukes who can assist them. They each have their own motives, but their involvement struck me as just to fix plot points and clues that were not obvious. Ultimately, your PCs will be in a position to finish the Battle of Pesh by slaying Miska - as he is the guardian of the final piece of the Rod and can be slain by the completed artifact. But even this piece to the legend and lore of D&D did not strike me as being epic enough. I would advise people laying this boxed set to add in perhaps a battlefield type scenario after the Rod is almost completed and make an epic law versus chaos fight along with the finding of the last piece. Otherwise, the final completion of the Rod takes place in an obscure prison on a far off plane, not really seeing the high stakes in that setting.

    Finally, as written, your characters will likely face frustration as they attempt to put the Rod together. Wrong moves result in a piece getting transported away and you having to slog after it. You may have to repeat this multiple times, unless you fudge some dice rolls or else edit the side effects/powers of the Rod.

    As with all published modules, doing the adventure straight as written is entirely the prerogative of the DM, and one is free to alter or ignore what they want. Having said that, for someone to pony up the funds to buy a boxed set, I believe that you should have a solid product that requires minimal editing in order to get the best value for your money. In my opinion, this boxed set requires too much re-working on my part to justify the investment as it is presented.

    O-D
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    Fri Apr 14, 2023 8:17 pm  
    Overall thoughts on RoSP

    So my overall assessment:

    I wanted to like this adventure. I did like the attempt to bring back the original pieces of lore in the 2nd edition and spend some time to really detail an artifact of power. But I thought that the story really did not do justice to the epic nature of the Rod, and so I am left with giving this adventure just a middling 3 out of 5 stars.

    My solution to giving the adventure its epic stature comes years after I bought the boxed set. I finally got around to reading through the Age of Worms adventure path and saw that they did a brief mention of the Rod in the early modules of that AP. I think you can add in the hunt for the Rod within the context of getting an artifact to combat the threat of Kyuss. I think that would be a most epic manner to see the Rod of Seven Parts come to a useful conclusion in opposing the Worm God at the climax of this AP.

    See if that idea works for you, and as always, please add in your thoughts to this thread.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Apr 22, 2023 10:58 am  
    some final thoughts

    Some final thoughts on the Rod of Seven Parts:

    In my research on the boxed set, I found a site that has a nice summary and information updated by editions on the Rod and other aspects of the adventure. Check out the article and the comments for more ideas.

    http://thecampaign20xx.blogspot.com/2015/08/dungeons-dragons-guide-to-rod-of-seven.html


    As always, you can make what you want of any published material. Next up, I have a controversial one! The 2e massive boxed set "Dragon Mountain"! Let me take some time to re-read the materials and we can discuss that one in the near future.

    Until then, feel free to comment on the other boxed sets and let's keep the discussion going!

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri May 26, 2023 4:36 pm  
    Dragon Mountain initial thoughts

    Dragon Mountain: the boxed set

    I think this was supposed to be a flagship product for the 2nd edition, judging from the old ads I saw for it. It has a huge megadungeon, a dragon, and promised to be epic. So was it?

    This is one heavy boxed set! There are three books, 12 cards, 16 handouts, 8 new entries into the Monstrous Compendium, 6 huge maps, and a set of cardstock minis of the dragon and the horde of minions that dwell in the mountain. The adventure itself is supposed to be big - the first book is just the lead up to getting to the mountain. So if you want a large adventure, this is certainly one of the biggest in 2nd edition.

    But the big first initial impression I got is that the setting is as generic as it can be. I wished there were some notes on fitting it in to other established worlds. You can do so yourself, the explanation being that the whole mountain plane shifts and can thus travel from world to world. (this kinda made the mountain like the dimension shifting castle in the movie "Krull" and thus fully one third of the books are about researching it and tracking down where it will appear)

    SPOILERS HERE: the name of the adventure is a little misleading, while there is a dragon, it should be called Kobold Mountain, as the red dragon at the heart of the dungeon has an army of these little guys to stymie your intrepid adventurers.

    Do a little background reading into an editorial from Dragon Magazine # 127 - "Tucker's Kobolds". This adventure seems like a partial homage to that editorial. While I like the principle behind Tucker's Kobolds (that is, even the lowliest creatures, if played right, deserve respect from the players), would an entire mountain full of them add up to an epic adventure?

    I will discuss more fully later.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Jun 10, 2023 3:32 pm  
    First the positives

    So first I will discuss the positive aspects of this boxed set.

    I must confess, when we played this back in the day, we really enjoyed it. I think there is a way to play this adventure as written that makes it a fun albeit still dangerous module for your players. However, there is also a way to run it that is still dangerous for your PCs, but is instead a tough slog that will quickly lose its novelty. I think my review of the positive aspects of this boxed set hinge on you being able to walk that line between making it enjoyable while still preserving the adventure's character.

    So the pros: You get a lot of extra materials for this boxed set, as mentioned earlier. Having all these huge maps and handouts are a very nice bonus and still hold up nicely after looking at them again after all these years.

    I am a fan of the "Tucker's Kobolds" scenario in which these low level cannon fodder can stand up and be a challenge to seasoned adventurers. And if you think that is a reasonable theme, this adventure provides a grand opportunity to play out that exact scenario on a large scale.

    While principally the main enemy is really the kobolds, there are enough wild card and weirdness encounters in the lair that liven things up. There is more than enough space in the maps for you to add in other flavor encounters or other challenges should you decide to put in some other twists to the adventure. So you have room to add in your own touch to the module as written, which is always a good thing to have.

    The first book is all about the lead up to get to the Mountain, and I like the fact that you can mix and match your hooks to get your party involved. There is a whole thread of adventures in following a clue that turns out to be a dead end, that can be ignored in favor of a more mystical and otherworldly method of determining where the mountain will appear. So I bought into the lead up to the adventure, for along the way you can get into your PCs some very valuable dragon fighting magic items.

    Some of these positives I am describing also lend to the negatives, which I will address later. Until then!

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Jun 18, 2023 8:42 pm  
    The minus side of the review

    Now for the cons:

    As I mentioned before, some of the extra wild cards sprinkled into the dungeon to mix things up from just fighting rank-and-file kobolds may just rub you the wrong way. There is a kobold assassin that can stalk your party, that by itself is fine but this kobold is also a powerful psionicist. Another kobold is a 13th level wizard. There is a polymorphed giant in a kobold body that retains all his strength.

    These weird curveballs can certainly serve as surprises to a party, I think there is a better way to add in some exceptional opponents among the humanoids without making some of them outrageously high powered. Under 2nd edition rules, kobolds could get PC levels as player characters (in the Complete Book of Humanoids) as fighters, thieves, and priests in levels 8, 12, and 9 respectively. With the sheer number of kobolds present and the patronage of a dragon, there could be more unusual types in this mountain, just not to the extent that is presented as written.

    I think the background remains the weakest aspect of the presentation, although that is the easiest to modify as needed. I am not sure I buy into the dragon being powerful enough to plane shift an entire mountain, that can be reworked to fit your taste. One aspect I did not like is the fact that there is only one interior artist, and while Tony DiTerlizzi has his fans (I like his work in Planescape) that product could use some other art to illustrate the mood and atmosphere of the setting better.

    If your players attempt to enter the mountain via the obvious entrance, it is likely that they will not enjoy the adventure very much. Played as written and as intelligent foes, the kobolds would likely whittle away at a party being so foolish. If the party is smart, they will find an alternate entrance and thus be able to exploit a weak point in the mountain defense. That frankly, is also the best way to play the adventure to avoid it becoming a boring war of grinding it out with legions of kobolds.

    basically, the dragon itself is almost an afterthought with all this humanoid bashing to do. But again, played as written, the dragon should become aware of a party way too early in the adventure and be ready to thump them when they reach the end. But this is where having put together some of the artifacts in the preamble would save a party and makes it valuable to take up those side quests in the first book. Having the detection ability from a magical amulet artifact can save their lives when moving through the mountain.

    So these are my main negative points. I am sure that other folks who have gone through this have other thoughts, but, as I said earlier, my group enjoyed the adventure with minimal modification to the written adventure. As always, there is no accounting for taste and I think if you approach the boxed set with expectations managed, you would have a good time.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Jul 04, 2023 1:53 pm  
    Overall Assessment

    My Overall assessment of Dragon Mountain is colored by my experience with it.

    I enjoyed running it as a DM and going through the adventure, more or less as written. Some of the weirder aspects got toned down by me, but otherwise I think this is a good 2nd edition megadungeon boxed set. Get it if you can find it intact, as it gives you a lot of extras and is a good addition to your library.

    I can fully understand where folks would disagree with me on this one. It is not for every taste, but I think it is a fun romp through a legion of baddies to slay a dragon. That is classic D&D there, I give it four out of five stars, based on the fun I had with it and the amount of extras that came in the box. It loses points for being very generic, but over all, a good one.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Jul 08, 2023 11:17 am  
    Final notes

    As kind of a bonus, let me make a couple comments on a similar module: Axe of the Dwarvish Lords. It is part of the 2nd edition Tomes series, but was not a boxed set. It appears to me to be somewhat of a re-do of Dragon Mountain in that it involves a former dwarf stronghold being overrun by humanoids, in this case goblins.

    So you have a quest to go through an oversized lair filled with minor humanoids. Except instead of a dragon being the BBEG it is a crazed wizard that has his henchman wield the famed artifact in question.

    There is a review on Canonfire already on this one, located here:

    http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Reviews&rop=showcontent&id=11

    I agree with most of the review. The one thing I differ with is that I still like Dragon Mountain better. But for those of you who would wish to have their high level parties experience danger at the hands of low level humanoids, either of these adventures can fit the bill with a little work.

    Next, I have a boxed set that is not Greyhawk, but a Plansescape one - The Blood War boxed set. I will have to pull that one off the shelf and read through it again before I start the review. Until then!

    O-D
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    Tue Jul 18, 2023 11:09 pm  
    Re: Reviewing box sets

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    Ok, first let me give my ground rules for these reviews.

    I am sticking to boxed sets of adventures. The aforementioned boxed sets were campaign supplements or city settings, not adventures. So I will stick to just those "maxi-modules" from the first and second editions.

    I will give my usual pros and cons of each. But a couple things specific to these reviews will be 1) their usefulness/place in the Greyhawk setting and 2) what extras you get in the box. Bottom line will be whether this set is worth the box based on the amount of goodies you get in the set.
    catchmod a diverse platform that provides exciting technology applications and games completely free of charge, providing users with unique entertainment and utility experiences on mobile devices. With CatchMod, users can discover useful technology applications and enjoy a wide range of games without any subscription or purchase fees.
    So I will begin with my most recent acquisition.

    Thank you for sharing your ground rules for these reviews. Focusing on boxed sets of adventures is a great idea, as they often provide comprehensive campaign supplements and settings. Consider their usefulness and place in the Greyhawk setting is essential, as it helps to assess their value within the overall context of the game world. Also, evaluate the extras that come with each boxed set will undoubtedly give readers valuable insights into what they can expect from the purchase. Your approach of providing pros and cons will be helpful in offering a balanced and informative review. I'm looking forward to reading about your most recent acquisition and learning about the goodies it has to offer. Happy review!
    GreySage

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    Wed Jul 19, 2023 8:34 pm  

    ^^ Rufus Miles ^^ is a spammer account.
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 05, 2023 6:02 pm  
    Rats!

    Spammer account - rats! I thought someone was interested in the thread! Oh well.

    Anyway...
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Aug 05, 2023 7:02 pm  
    Hellbound: The Blood War

    When I was DM'ing my brother and his friends, we made it to the Q1 module. That offered infinite possibilities for lower plane adventuring. We were having a great time traveling from portal to portal across the Abyss. So when the Planescape line came out, I scooped up any reference I could to the Abyss and lower planes for more materials. So that is how I ended up with a Planescape boxed set in my otherwise Greyhawk only collection.

    My thoughts on this particular boxed set are really a reflection on my judgement on the Planescape as a whole. It was never really that appealing to me - I favored a more epic idea of planar adventuring, and too many of the Planescape products seemed too mundane and low level for my style. Having said that, this boxed set focuses on the most interesting planes, the lower ones, and the war that raged between the powers below.

    In this box, we have a booklet of information for the players, a bigger one for the DM, a book with three adventures, a small illustration book, and a comic book "The Bargain" which is a nice little addition. So a nice haul of materials for your box.

    So let us dive into the pros and cons of this one!
    GreySage

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    Sat Aug 05, 2023 7:13 pm  

    RufusMiles copied a portion of the original post, but added the following paragraph with a link to an advertisement or virus (I haven't clicked on it to find out). I have seen this done before on Canonfire! and elsewhere. The comment posted below the quote reads like it was written by ChatGBT.

    "catchmod a diverse platform that provides exciting technology applications and games completely free of charge, providing users with unique entertainment and utility experiences on mobile devices. With CatchMod, users can discover useful technology applications and enjoy a wide range of games without any subscription or purchase fees.
    So I will begin with my most recent acquisition."

    SirXaris
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    Fri Aug 11, 2023 9:23 pm  
    The positives of the Blood War

    Robo spam aside, let us get into the pros and cons of this boxed set!

    Pros: The three adventures in this boxed set are not overly high level, but can be easily scaleable for higher level play. They offer some examples of side quests in the outer planes that some DMs may want to spring on their parties. In my campaign, we were sent out on missions after being stranded in the Abyss, so these adventures were fairly simple to drop into the campaign.

    Some of the locations are good additions to those of us who like to add in their own Abyssal or Hellish details to the planes. Generally, the plots of the adventures are suitable for such generic add in play, though the plot of the third adventure tries to be overly epic - the ability of the demons and devils to teleport is at stake - I found that to be too much to lay in the hands of relatively low level PCs, so you can adjust the stakes accordingly.

    So, with these adventures, the comic book, illustrations, and other materials, this is a pretty good addition to the Planescape library.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Aug 16, 2023 4:40 pm  
    Cons of the Blood War

    The Cons:

    The negatives to this boxed set really are a reflection of the issues I had with the Planescape setting as a whole. I disliked the overuse of the first person "thieves cant" style narrations. The color scheme in the products tends to be ugly, with weird fonts popping off at random that makes reading a chore.

    The adventures are simultaneously too low key and try to be epic at the same time. You are led to believe that your PCs are being used as pawns by higher level forces, but they are really not of high enough levels to make that a realistic plot point. As mentioned earlier, the stakes of having mortal PCs be able to affect a power of the demons and devils is overly high level and I did not really buy into the premise in the first place.

    So this falls into a take it or leave it category for me. I have used it in my campaigns and can be fun if you are already caught in the outer planes. Otherwise, it is not vital to a Greyhawk campaign.

    O-D
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    Mon Aug 21, 2023 5:40 am  

    Great summary of this box set, fully agree with your review. Interesting that you began with your experience of Q1, as I found Planescape echoes the strengths and weaknesses of that module: an ambitious project with some very cool ideas but the final product lacks both focus and exciting adventures. I also did not care for the first-person narrative or overall layout.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Oct 12, 2023 6:02 pm  
    final thoughts on Blood Wars

    So my overall assessment of the Blood Wars is that if a) you enjoy the Planescape setting as an addition to your Greyhawk experiences, it is a keeper and b) if in your Greyhawk campaign you do a lot of planar travel, it can give good ideas for lower planes adventures.

    Otherwise, there really is not enough to recommend it to a Greyhawk-centric campaign. So it gets a mild two out of five stars from me.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Nov 02, 2023 7:00 pm  
    follow up book reading

    One more thing - I was in my base library and found the novelization of Rod of Seven Parts written by Douglas Niles. So I had to check it out!

    It....was a thing. Bottom line is that it was forgettable. Does not exactly follow the adventure, so you cannot be spoiled too much by reading it. But ultimately, you probably do not need to read this unless you are a completist. It is not set in any particular world, so it is in keeping with the generic aspect of the adventure for which it is based.

    Meh.
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