Saturday, 6 August 2022

Thoughts on G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King

“These dwell among the blackest souls, loaded down deep by sins of differing types.
If you sink far enough, you'll see them all.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno

G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King
Just as the trail led from the STEADING OF THE HILL GIANT CHIEF to the frozen wastes where was found the GLACIAL RIFT OF THE FROST GIANT JARL, so the adventure in the latter place has led (or transported) the intrepid party to what they hope will be their last challenge. They are about to venture into the hot and smoking barrens which are in effect Muspelheim, the home of fire giants. In the vast rocky halls of the fire giants' doughty liege lord, the dread King Snurre Iron Belly, they hope to find both the answer to the riddle of what or who is behind the strange alliance of many different types of giants as well as great treasure. Surely here in the stronghold of the fire giants will be encountered the evil genius—or genii—controlling the uprising and planning the well-executed attacks, for Snurre is said to be far stronger than smart.
[G3 Hall of the Fire Mountain King – 2]

The adventure continues. It’s been quite a ride, thus far. Twists! Turns! TPKs! Maybe not. But the prior sorties probably tasked the very limit of your skill and ingenuity. Stealth and subterfuge served you well, at first; but all too soon, you were knee-deep in an orc rebellion. If that were not enough, you were led into the highest, and iciest of peaks, and into the caverns that hollowed the glacier that spilled out of them. Stealth failed you before long, and you were lucky to escape those icy warrens with your lives. But it was not all for naught. Valuable intel was uncovered.
The giants were not acting alone. A mysterious Elcavdra was somehow behind this gathering of giantkind. Directing them. Manipulating them, perchance? Be that as it may, the giants were gathering together an army that must be scattered before it could be unleashed.
The Hill Giants had been chastened. The Frost Giants were dealt a blow.
And now, all clues led to the Halls of the Fire Giant King.
And now the brave adventurers stand before the black and smoking slag hill which holds the Hall of the Fire Giant King. They have penetrated near the heart of the matter into a fell realm where even the strongest need beware!
[G3 – 2]
Their are a hellish, sulphurous demesnes. The very air seethes; it stops the breath; and saps their strength by the minute.
The plain about is most evil and drab appearing. The sky is gray and filled with sooty clouds. A distant volcano can be seen, and far to the south a glowing river of molten lava moves sluggishly down a slope and out of Sight. It is hot, and the air smells of heated rock and metal. The ground is full of cinders and sharp rocks. The place is lit by night with dim red light from flaming gases shooting forth from the earth and from molten rock. [G3 – 2]

This adventure module is not so different from G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief in that the Grand Hall and Throne Room are at the beginning (as they should be, when you think on it) and that Snurre is there.
It digresses thereafter. This is a lengthy adventure module, as long, in fact, as the prior 2 together. Those 2 were but 8 pages apiece. Simple math informs us that G3 Hall of the Fire Gian King is 16. And rightly so! There’s a lot in it. It’s as far more harrowing in its horror than was G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief;  and if that were not enough, it’s even more of an exercise in endurance than was G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.
It should be noted that the party will be treated to a battle royale, from the very start.
1. ENTRY PASSAGE: The floor here is polished obsidian, and great wall hangings can be seen by the party as soon as they enter. The tapestries between the torches are done in bloody colors and show victorious fire giants. The door guard is in alcove A:
A. The tapestry hanging before this post is loosely woven so as to allow the fire giant […] in the dark recess to clearly see whoever enters. If intruders are spotted, he will wind his great bronze horn to warn the Hall. [G3 – 3]
2. GRAND HALL: 2 ettins […] are always here, using their four heads to watch all directions. [G3 – 3]
3. THRONE ROOM AND AUDIENCE CHAMBER: […] 4 fire giants […] in chain shirts […] guard the King at all times [.] Crouching beside either arm of the throne are 2 large hell hounds […] which are the King's constant companions. King Snurre […] himself is seated upon the black seat of the throne. He is over 13' tall. Snurre is clad in his black iron armor […], and holds a huge two-handed sword which has flames along its blade when it is swung […]. [G3 – 3,4]
Well, that was simple. They put the Fire Giant King to the sword and can pack up their troubles and head home, sure to receive what accolades due them, having completed their mission with honour and distinction.
If it were that easy.
For one, Snurre will not be so easily defeated:
Behind the throne the wall shows the flaming skull which is Snurre's own device, flanked by fire giants with clubs over their shoulders. Huge torches burn in bronze cressets. (The secret door is actually one of the flanking giants inlaid on the wall. A cresset to the left of it is pulled down to cause it to swing inward). [G3 – 3]
Snurre will have been forewarned by the survivors of the PCs past experiences of G1 and G2. And they are more formidable than the Hill Giants or Frost Giants before them.
Fire Giant:
HIT DICE: 11 + 2-5; INTELLIGENCE: Average to low; ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil [MM 1e – 44]
Remember also that these giants are both the toughest so far encountered and that they hove the best advice immediately available to them. [G3 – 3]
Advice? More on that later.
Aside from what advice they have at their disposal, note that Fire Giants are Lawful and not Chaotic. That suggests that they are organised, and that they adhere to chain-of-command. I imagine this makes them a more effective martial force.
That would mean that they would not sit back waiting for come-what-may.
As soon as the party strikes and then retires, the attack will be assessed and counter-measures taken. [G3 – 3]
When the party retires from the Hall, the fire giants will lay whatever traps and ambushes they are able to under the circumstances. Lights will be put out, sentries will be posted, and so forth. [G3 – 3]
Prior experience tells us that the Hill and Frost Giants would do the same after the PCs initial forays into their fortresses, but here it is presumed that the Fire Giants try to lure the PCs into a trap.
On the second and any successive raids upon the place, there is a 50% likelihood that the gates will be ajar, and some guard will be watching for the attackers in order to alert the Hall. [G3 – 2]
And that they would go in search of where the nuisance PCs were held up.
This hidden refuge will prove to be safe from detection as long as the party leaves no plain trail to it, and as long as they are not followed to it. (If they thrice venture forth from the cave to raid the Fire Giant Hall there will be a 10% cumulative chance per additional raid that the hideyhole will be found by the giants, i.e. a 10% chance the fourth raid, 20% the fifth, etc.) [G3 – 2]

I will not belabour the obvious; most of the upper level is a litany of giant encounters, and that of their fiery domestics. There are hell hounds galore, pyrohyra, chimera, and gnolls.
And yet there is Obmi, he alone likely worth the price of admission, with all due respect to King Snurre and Queen Frupy. Why do I wax so upon Obmi? Because he is one of the most evocative of Greyhawk dramatis personae, that’s why.
The Advisor is a grossly fat but very strong and quite fast renegade mountain dwarf, one Obmi. [G3 – 6]
(H.P.: 79; Strength 18/94, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 18, Dexterity 16, Constitution 17, Charisma 16 (18); fighter/thief of level 9/11) is herein at work on the problems besetting his King. He has been Snurre's advisor for 25 years, spending 5 years as a slave before that. He is armed only with a dagger hidden in his boot, hard at several scrolls on the plain wooden desk in the room. There is a case against the north wall which contains various maps, scrolls, etc., all written in fire giant or dwarvish. He uses a plain wooden box as a footstool, and it seemingly holds old clothes of his, but in a false bottom are hidden gems whose base values are: 2 5,000 g.p., 8 1,000 g.p., 23 500 g.p., 41 100 g.p., and 1850 g.p. Also In the cell is a rude wooden pallet he uses to rest on. Note: The door to this study appears to be locked from the outside. (Obmi is very clever…) He has a peep hole, and if he sees intruders who are winning he will yell for them to help him. The dwarf will claim that the giants have held him—a prince—captive for 10 years, trying to trick information out of him, or to subvert his loyalty to dwarfdom, when torture failed. He will further claim that several humans in black robes aid the giants in their questioning. Finally, he will ask to be allowed his armor and weapons in order to gain sweet revenge upon Snurre, for he knows exactly where the King will be! [G3 – 6]
His +2 armor and +2 shield are laid out on a rack near the door, and his +1 axe and +3 hammer are on the wall above. Underneath the armor are his gauntlets of ogre power (+6 on h.p. of damage he inflicts, +2 on his striking ability). [G3 – 6]
Woe to ye who believes his tale of woe, though.
Upon entering the room he will palm the ring, don the armor, put on the gauntlets, thong the axe to his belt, heft the hammer, and hold the shield. At first opportunity he will attack the party and raise a hue and cry for help, but he will do so only when he knows help will be able to come. He knows a bit about the Drow, and he will bargain that, or anything else, to save his life. If faced with no quarter to be given, he will fight to the very end. [G3 – 6]
No, he will not. (Obmi is very clever…) He was once a slave, and is now a trusted advisor. Trusted... But should he be? He will survive because he is a survivor. Simple as that.

Oh, yeah, there are drow. Is this their first mention in D&D? It is, outside of the DM notes at the beginning of the module. I might, however, argue that their first mention was no mention at all. D3 Vault of the Drow was noted on the back cover of G1.
So too were the drow referred to obliquely within G1:
Several scroll tubes are concealed in this room, under a stack of logs in the alcove to the northwest. Only one tube has anything in it, this one being sealed and marked with a triangle containing a Y. Inside is a set of instructions on the next raid, written in giantish, and signed "Eclavdra". Also in the tube are the plans for the Steading, but this plan does not show the lower level. [G1 – 4]
Yes, I freely admit that mention of Eclavdra is not quite the same as mention of drow; but it is, in a way, isn’t it?
Further early mention of the drow can be discovered in Snurre’s Council Room:
Alcove: 4 extra chairs are stored here, and a huge cabinet holds 83 scrolls and 367 pieces of paper or parchment. Most are worthless, but the 68th scroll tube contains a set of instructions for the King, telling him to gather forces of hill, stone, frost, and fire giants, along with whatever strength he can raise in ogres, ogre-magi, cloud giants, and any other creatures for an all-out attack on the provinces to the east and northeast. The scroll promises powerful help from "Drow". It is signed "Eclavdra". The papers are message copies to and replies from various types of giants and others already mentioned above. [G3 – 6]

One might think that once our heroes gathered this evidence, they are free and clear. But they are not. The demands of their noble lords have been fluid, at best, haven’t they?
These adventurers must deliver a sharp check, deal a lesson to the clan of hill giants nearby, or else return and put their heads upon the block for the headsman's axe! […] They are to follow any clues discovered if such point towards the sinister hand suspected of guiding the rising, but to return at once if they should determine exactly the reason or force behind the unholy alliance. [G1 – 2]
I gather that the discovery of what sinister hand behind the raids was paramount, early on. I suspect, though, that the severity of the raids had increased soon afterwards.
As frost giants have been amongst those who have been in the reaving bands, [d]eath and destruction are to be meted out to the frost giants in the same measure they gave to the peoples below. [T]heir most important mission, however, is to garner intelligence as to what or who is behind the unholy alliance of hill, stone, frost, and possibly other types of giants as well. Any such information gained is to be delivered by the fastest means to the nobles sponsoring the expedition, while the party is to follow up clues in order to prosecute offenders. [G2 – 2]
A sharp check has been upgraded to meting out death and destruction, it would seem. (How this upgrade in instructions might reach the PCs if they were leaping from one site to the other by means of the magic chain is anyone’s guess.) And if that were not enough, the ante was upped, yet again for the final foray: they will know that there is a charge upon them to report definite information to the rulers who have sent them forth to inflict punishment on the rapacious giant raiders. They are to slay fire giants and all who associate with them. Failure means death, no longer from the nobles, but from the monsters the party must face. [G3 – 2]

Plunging ever deeper into the fiery complex in pursuit of Snurre and his masters reveals… more ettins, more stone giants, hill giants, and frost giants.
Indeed, the ultimate refuge of Nosnra and Grugnur, and any of their vassals who survived the prior adventures, is revealed. It’s unlikely that there are any other sanctuaries for either of them to bolt to, so I expect they will meet their end here.
4. STORAGE ROOM: This area has been cleaned out to serve as quarters for either 5 hill giants […] armed, or the hill giant Chief […] his wife […] and 1 or 2 cave bears […] if they survived Module G1. [G3 – 8]
13. GUEST CHAMBER: 6 frost giants […] who are messengers from the Jarl will be here unless the Jarl and his wife survived the adventure in their area (Module G2). [G3 – 12]

Plunging deeper reveals that Fire Giants are as benevolent as were the Hill Giants, if there was any doubt in that regard.
7. TORTURE CHAMBER: […] The King's Torturer […] and the Royal Headsman […] are playing knucklebones [.] The Torturer will grab his opponent and attempt to throw him or her into the iron maiden [.] If the Headsman is closely pressed he will grab and toss his opponent down the well [.] [G3 – 8]

I rather like the possibilities that the prisoners present for campaign development.
1c. Elven female for sacrifice in the Temple. She is of highly noble birth and will send her rescuers 10,000 g.p., 20 +1 arrows, an arrow of giant slaying, and a set of cloak and boots of elvenkind if she escapes. The reward will come from 1 to 2 months after she leaves to return home.
2c. 8 male elves meant for sacrifice in the Temple. They are normal elves only.
3c. Merchant being held for ransom. He is a normal human, and he cannot pay.
5c. 2 noble centaurs (H.P.: 30, 27) imprisoned and bound for torture and execution. They will offer at least minimal help to any who free them. [G3 – 8]
But the true gem here is this:
12c. Human female (11th level thief: […] Strength 15, Intelligence 15, Wisdom 8, Dexterity 18, Constitution 16, Charisma 17) chained to the wall. She will gladly admit to being a thief caught trying to find the King's treasure room, and volunteer to aid the party faithfully for a chance to escape. If opportunity presents itself, she will heist as much in gems and magic as she can and then slip away, but until then she will actually help the party. Of course, during this time she will be casing each character to learn what he or she carries…
[G3 – 9]
I’m reminded of Duchess and Candella. Duchess, in this case, owing to her dark locks.
Neither of their stats match those given the unnamed thief above…
Duchess (AL N; S11, I12, W15, D16, C18 Ch 15)
Candella (AL N; S12, I15, W13, D17, C15, Ch 14); blonde and wearing a string of pearls
…but that’s of no never mind. Stats are as stats used. What’s important is her capricious thanks, reminiscent of those later notables.
Candella and Duchess
These two thieves will act friendly toward the party. They will pretend to be young inexperienced fighters in search of adventure. They will politely ask to join the party, saying that they are not quite as tough or as prepared for adventuring as they had originally thought.
If they join the party the two thieves will wait for a good chance to steal whatever they can (either by trying to pick pockets or just grabbing any loot in sight), and then run away. [B3 – 24]
Why do I suggest Duchess’ inclusion? Because I wish it; and because D & C are my favourite foils. Love interests. Lovely, lovable, loyal to a fault… Or not… Depending on their whim. My favourite NPCs, bar none. Sorry Circle of Eight. Apologies Obmi. None of you were ever in the running, in that regard.
Duchess’ inclusion also allows for Candella’s, if there was doubt on that account. She might be met on the road. Or whenever the PCs need a helping hand. There’s no saying she’d be alone, either. She might be intent on a desperate rescue mission, and will be willing to spin any yarn she might imagine to get the PCs to aid her in that regard.
But I digress.

Soon after, the foreshadowing of the WEIRD TEMPLE of G1 comes to the fore.
The Temple of the Eye
9-11. TEMPLE OF THE EYE: Note the illusion walls which screen this area. This place is illuminated by a strange swirling light which seems to be part of the very air of the place. Eddies of luminosity drift and swirl here and there, causing the whole scene to be strange and uncertain. Distances and dimensions are tricky to determine in the shifting light of rusty purple motes and lavender rays. Globs of mauve and violet seem to seep and slide around. The ceiling of the Temple is out of visual range, 50' at the lowest, and well over 65' where it vaults upwards.
[G3 – 9]
11. Priests' Area: […] On the second tier is a huge stone altar block of dull, porous-looking, somewhat rusty black mineral. To either side of it are ranked large bronze braziers whose corroded green coloration is particularly nauseating in this setting. To the left and right of these braziers, set in triangular form with the point to the south, are 2 sets of 3 candelabra, each candelabrum having 3 branches. These are made of bronze green with age, and each branch holds a fat black candle which burns with a flame of leaping lavender and deep glowing purple but never grows smaller.
Nothing save the metal triangle stands upon the third tier.
If the altar stone is touched by living flesh or hit, it will begin to fade in color, and in 3 rounds it will become a translucent amethyst color with a black, amorphous center. Any further touch when the altar is thus transformed will paralyze a creature touching it for 5 to 20 turns. If the drum is beaten, the chimes rung, and the triangle struck while the altar is changed, a glowing golden eye will swim into view from the stone's writhing center. All creatures seeing the eye must roll on the table below (d12) to learn their fate: [G3 – 10]
SPOILERS. I shall not divulge further. Not a whit.
It’s all very Lovecraftian. That makes me love it.

Part and parcel with the Temple are the drow. I shan’t dwell on the drow. Much has been said about the drow. We know they are cunning. That they are devious. They are despicably evil. (Unless they are not, but these were early days, and in that neolithic time, they were the badest of badies. I’m fine with their remaining irredeemably so, but if you are not, and seeing that I am unlikely to haunt your table anytime soon, I bow to however you imagine them. Keep in mind that these drow will not be of the same philosophical bent as Drizz’t, all evidence here indicating as much.) However you view the drow, this was our first introduction to them. Then, you were likely terrified by the occasion. But, it was only an introduction. There was more to come.

The lowest, and final level, is not a giant lair. It is a complex of volcanic caves. It is not the demesne of the Fire Giants. They hold no dominion here. It is where the surface world and the underoerth converge, and it has a very different character that those higher “levels.”
Level #3 is all natural, the tunnels and caverns showing no marks of being hollowed out except for the entranceway to the level from above and where the exit from the level is (beyond the River of Lava in the northwest corner). [G3 – 12]

It is from here that the drow have seethed. And it is here that we will meet Eclavdra.
This strangely attractive female is dressed in silver-embroidered black garments, with a small black metal cap which allows her silver hair to float free. She is Eclavdra (10th level cleric/ fighter; […] Strength 14, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 17, Dexterity 18, Constitution 10, Charisma 18; […]), the one who fomented all of the trouble. [G3 – 11]
But not before we are treated to how to design such a sulphurous, infernal, subterranean world. There are fire beetles, and ropers; and trolls, trolls and more trolls. There may even be a few mind flayers.
And drow.

Assuming the assault on the upper levels have gone well, and the drow are on the run, the PCs will eventually find their way into the furthest depths of the caverns.
It is where Gary Gygax treats us to insights into his campaign. (He did already: see the orc rebellion in G1.) We are instructed that not all “encounters” need be combative, no matter that the beings encountered are evil. The enemy of my enemy, and all that….
16. SMALL CAVERN: […] These 8 guards protect Nedylene, a cleric/fighter noble generally opposed to anything Eclavdra attempts. She is here to check up on her rival, and she will be suspicious of any creature entering her current abode. On the other hand, she will not be adverse to seeing her rival's plans go wrong.
[G3 – 14]
Take note here! This is a valuable insight on how play ought to play out in D123! Learn lest you surely perish!

That said, AD&D would not be AD&D without the adventure’s final showdown.
Be advised that the battle with the big bad ought to be waged in epic fashion, in epic setting. Otherwise, what’s the point. To end otherwise would be anticlimactic, after all. And we can’t have that.
19-20. RED CAVERN OF INFERNALNESS: This huge space is lit up in reddish light by the bubbling, steaming river of molten lava which flows through the place. The cavern stinks of sulphur and heated rock, and the temperature there is very hot, although a strong draft cools it somewhat. The roof is no less than 60' high.
19. Venting gases of flame and smoke. Amidst this vaporous inferno are 2 salamanders […] who are enjoying a change of clime. The flames and smoke make them impossible to see beyond 30'. They are totally neutral with respect to whom they attack, although they know and respect the Drow. They have no treasure. Note that a rope bridge is suspended from this area to 20., about 15' above the lava river.
20. Secluded section of the cavern which serves as the meeting place and council chamber for Eclavdra and her minions. Currently at this place are 6 2nd level male fighters […], 3 4th level female fighters […]and an 8th level female fighter […] particularly favored by Eclavdra. […] [G3 – 13]
Note that Eclavdra will be herewith as many of her followers as survive if things go badly on level #2. [G3 – 14]

Is this the end?
Hardly! One might suggest that this is only the beginning….
[The] party will find an adamantite tube when they search area 20., a scroll, and a map accidentally (?) dropped by one of the fleeing noble Drow. […] The map is a continuation of the Drow escape route, showing a vast maze of passages on a large scale. There are three cryptic areas on it, which could indicate the whereabouts of vast subterranean cities or other strange places which are far deeper than any dungeon known. [G3 – 15]

Is this the best of the 3? I expect that quite a few people think that. Might that be because the drow are introduced in it? Could be. G3 certainly inspires superior role play because of them, otherwise it might be dismissed as a classic hack-and-slash module. Which it is not! The drow are not what they seem, it would seem. They are as complex as we are. There are factions in their society, apparently. And factions within factions.
But each of these modules was excellent in their own way, weren’t they? Each was a template of module creation. A teaching tool, as useful and illuminating as B2 Keep on the Borderlands and T1 The Village of Hommlet are. G1 taught us stealth, and fluid encounter development. G2 taught us how to develop a winter setting. G3 introduced us to fire and the subterranean underworld.
But which is best?
I’ll let you duke it out amongst yourself. I prefer G2, despite it likely being the weakest, and arguably lesser, of the 3. I explained why in my Thoughts on G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.

All things said and done, I’d like call attention again to the 68th scroll tube [that] contains a set of instructions for the King, telling him to gather forces of hill, stone, frost, and fire giants, along with whatever strength he can raise in ogres, ogre-magi, cloud giants, and any other creatures for an all-out attack on the provinces to the east and northeast.
This is portentous, isn’t it. The giants do indeed attack, en mass. In 584 CY.
One wonders, or I do, at least, that the daring deeds of our heroes did not prevent the planned invasion at all, they merely delayed what the drow might have always thought inevitable….

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke

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.

The Art:
Cover art, from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, 1978
Muspelheim, by Erol Otus, from G123 Against the Giants, 1980
"Muspelheim," by Dungeon #200, Hall of the Fire Giant King, 2012
Fire Giant, by D.A. Trampier, from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, 1978
Obmi, by Dungeon #200, Hall of the Fire Giant King, 2012
Ettin, by Keiran Yanner, from the Monster Manual 5e, 2014
Thief, from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, 1978
Drow, by Bill Willingham, from D1-2 Descent to the Depths of the Earth, 1981
Eclavdra, by Dungeon #200, Hall of the Fire Giant King, 2012
Drow encounter, from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, 1978

9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2009 Monster Manual 1e, 1977, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
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 Mountain King, 1978
9026 T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979, 1981
9034 B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, 1980, 1981
9044 B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981
9058 G123 Against the Giants, 1978, 1981

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