Friday, 15 April 2022

Thoughts on L3 Deep Dwarven Delve


“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”
― Siddhārtha Gautama

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!
[L3 Deep Dwarven Delve – 2]

Len Lakofka’s Lendore series was to conclude with L3 Deep Dwarven Delve; and it might have if Fate had played a different hand. So, what transpired that it did not?
Short answer? Fate.
Len was contracted to write three adventures back in 1979, but only the first two saw publication: L1 The Secret of Bone Hill and L2 The Assassin’s Knot. This is not to say that he did not deliver what he promised, because he did; it’s just that L3 was somehow misplaced in TSR’s files; or maybe it was simply dropped from the roster when Gary Gygax and his old guard were turfed in the cuffuffle of office politics that shall remain uncommented on here.
And there it remained until TSR’s 25th anniversary, that is.
For one reason or another, TSR decided to revisit its bestsellers from time to time, compiling those much-loved series into a few omnibus editions—I speak on Scourge of the Slavelords (1986), Queen of the Spiders (1986), and Realms of Horror (1987).
It comes as no surprise that they would reissue certain classics on their 25th anniversary. They expounded upon certain classics in 1999 with Against the Giants—The Liberation of Geoff, and they returned to the Keep on the Borderlands and White Plume Mountain, with greater success than they had with their prior super-modules, IMO, if others disagree with me on that point. To each his own, I say.
But they also reissued certain unedited classics in its Silver Edition Boxed Set, namely B2 Keep on the Borderlands, G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, I6 Ravenloft, and S2 White Plume Mountain. Why? Why not. Easy money, one might say. It was only then that L3 was “found,” or dusted off, and added to the Boxed Set. One wonders why L3 was included when L1 and L2 were not? Weren’t the others already revisited? Wasn’t the Lendore series deserving of its own omnibus edition? I believe it did; others might disagree; but to my mind, they would be wrong. But I suspect that Lakofka’s Lendore doesn’t pack the same nostalgic punch as the Slavers or Straud does.
One might think that this is where Len Lekofka’s L-series met its end. In that, one would be mistaken. He penned more adventures for his little corner of the world, but all things IP considered, he moved up the road to Kroton, which received scant mention in his earlier works. These can be found as free downloads on Dragonfoot, if you are interested in his further exploration of his little patch of Greyhawk. Lendore Adventures and Kroton Adventures deserve at least as much attention as his TSR publications, but alas, those later releases are not the focus of this piece.
L3 Deep Dwarven Delve is.

I must admit that the front cover blurb does not entice as well as it should, not as well as its “Background” does:
Restenford and Garrotton
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 equipped 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.
[L3 – 3]

That sounds better, doesn’t it? That may be because Len wrote the latter, and likely not the former.
Where might the humanoids be coming from?
Well, from under the ground.
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. [L3 – 3]
That does sound like a dwarven reaction, doesn’t it? They are a private folk. A secretive folk when it comes to their mines and riches, after all, never trusting the other races that obviously covet their riches so.

But what exactly happened?
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. [L3 – 3]

Baalzebul? Holy Mack!
Not to worry, your players will not have to face the arch-devil. This is a mid-level adventure, scaled for PCs level 3-7.
It is presented in two parts, an attack on the orc stronghold, and the second as an exploration of the underlying great evil that the dwarves unearthed.
Sounds fabulous.
And it should be.
But it’s not.
It’s decidedly un Lakofka-esque.
Why do I say that? Because it’s a straightforward dungeon delve, and aside from the triple alliteration of its title, there is little else that would mark it as a Len Lakofka module. Where is the town? Where are the innumerable characters and their interwoven relations and motivations? Where is the timeline, the rumour table, the complex plot? ‘Tis lacking.

The module begins as one expects of tournament modules: At the beginning.
The few small stands of trees on the hillsides consist of pines and yews. The hills have few bushes, and their rocky sides are worn by glaciation. The Delve resides beneath one of the many hills in the area. [L3 – 7]
The main entrance is some 80 feet above ground level and cannot be seen from the base of the hill. It is cut into the mountainside with a flat rock outcropping in front of it that is roughly circular with a diameter of 60 feet. The entrance itself is rectangular, 30 feet wide and 20 feet high. It is perfectly cut from the surrounding stone. [L3 – 7]
The rear entrance is also 80 feet from ground level and cannot be seen from the base of the hill. This entrance is preceded by a 50'-diameter, flat rock outcropping. The entrance is rectangular, 10 feet wide and 15 feet high. [L3 – 8]

What follows is what one might describe as a classic dungeon delve, hence its name, I suppose. As it should, I imagine, it being written in 1979 and “lost” for 20 years.
The art is a far cry better than those early days, but the maps are a little symmetrical. There is nary a twist nor turn, the rooms almost invariably circular. One wonders how quickly TSR rushed this into production when one ponders them.
Orcs and bugbears abound, as do trolls and ogres. Undead proliferate as the heroes descend into the mine, a nice touch, considering the backstory. So too the description:
This level is musty and unused. The quarter-inch-thick layer of dust on the floor has not been disturbed for over 200 years. [L3 – 11]

I should imagine that the depths would look like that, but I have to say that what is depicted is not a mine, not by a long shot. I ought to know, it having been my trade for the past few decades. It spirals down upon itself, but not in any manner that would indicate the dwarves were following seams or mining lodes. And at only three levels, with a limited number of rooms, the dwarves did not delve too deep before meeting their end. No grade is indicated, but how deep the mine dives is noted room by room (below the last). That said, the grade must be deep enough for successive rooms to dive under those above, averaging at least -20°, by my reckoning, given the distances and spans given. That’s pretty steep! As to the temperature differences noted, mines do get colder at depth, and then, after a couple thousand feet, they begin to heat up again, what with millions of tons of rock pressing down upon them. This mine is not that deep. That said, I’ve rarely encountered a single adventure that met my expectation of what a mine should look like, the closest being A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry.
The tunnels and chambers were carved from seamless stone by skilled dwarven miners. There is the occasional broken piece of stonework, but the tunnels and rooms are secure and in no danger of collapse. The temperature of the Delve begins at about 60° F in area 9 but cools gradually as one descends (1° F per room is a good approximation) to a minimum of 50° F. The temperature is below freezing in areas 29 and 30. However, it begins to warm rapidly as one moves closer to area 39, gaining about 10° F in each successive room, so that the temperature in area 39 is about 110° F! [L3 – 11]
But depth and pressure aren’t the reasons for the temperature shift. It would be diabolical of me to reveal why. So I won’t.

Encounters grow exponentially intense at depth, becoming ever more dire, as can be seen by the cast of villains:
Nagas, and wraiths, and dwarven zombie clerics, oh my!
There’s a way of bypassing all this, but I’ll not reveal how, either; but to do so has the potential to wipe out an incautious party. [L3 – 3] Len’s words, not mine.

Is there a story? None other than the backstory, although you can work one into your greater campaign if you should decide to slip this work into it. You’ll have to concoct a reason why Enthar the Magician, a 6th level human Magic-user is involved, because Len, in his infinite wisdom, failed to do so; although Frelpic’s, the dwarven Patriarch of Baalzebul is self-explanatory upon reading the adventure. Vezenor, the barbed devil, and Skirpus, the bone devil are there to do their masters bidding, I imagine. By their inclusion, I suggest the PCs tend closer towards 7th level than 3rd. Just a suggestion. Your call.

As a dungeon crawl it’s not bad. But as noted, it isn’t Lakofka-esque. Why is it not? Len suggested that the original was altered without his consent, but later admitted that it wasn’t that far removed from what he’d originally written…and 20 years had passed since he’d last seen it, so I wonder how exact his recollection was. Maybe Len wanted to branch out, maybe he wanted to prove that he could write all sorts of adventures, should TSR consider engaging him to submit more. He certainly was imaginative. His first adventure was what one could call a sandbox, his second was a murder mystery (of a sort), and the third was a crawl.
Should you decide to download his further Lendore and Kroton adventures, you will note that those were far more detailed than these three. He did have time on his hands to world-build, what with his no longer penning Leomund’s Tiny Hut, after all.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
― Albert Einstein

One must always give credit where credit is due. This post is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.
Very special thanks to Lenard Lakofka, without whose imagination, this adventure, and this review, could not have been possible.

The Art: 
L3 cover, by Wayne Reynolds, from L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1999
TSR Silver Anniversary box cover, 1999
Restenford and Garrotton regional map, by "Reader Ethan," found on The Restenford Project
Frelpicby Wayne Reynolds, from L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1999
Baalzebul, from Monster Manual 1e, 1977,1978
L3 Level 2 Map, by Christopher Perkins, from L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1999
Undead dwarfby Wayne Reynolds, from L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1999
Iron Golem Encounterby Wayne Reynolds, from L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1999

9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
90039A Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, 2015
9045 L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, 1981
9057 L2 The Assassins Knot, 1983
9844 L3 Deep Dwarven Delve, 1979, 1999
9016 G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, 1978
9017 G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
9018 G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, 1978
9058 G123 Against the Giants, 1981
9034 B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, 1980
9026 T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979, 1981
9027 S2 White Plume Mountain, 1979,1980,1981
9075 I6 Ravenloft, 1983
9147 T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
9167 A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords, 1986
9179 GDQ1-7 Queen of the Spiders, 1986
9209 S1-4 Realms of Horror, 1987
11413 The Liberation of Geoff, 1999
The Restenford Project

1 comment:

  1. Well written David, i'm off to Dragonsfoot to check out Len's other offerings.