Friday, 19 May 2023

Thoughts on D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth

― Howard J. Schwach, A Journey to the Center of the Earth

D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
For those who have not read my earlier discussions on D1 and D2 I’ll bring you up to speed, hopefully without dwelling too much on what I’ve already covered.
The story thus far:
The final confrontation with the giant, King Snurre, and the entry of mighty adventurers into the caverns under his stronghold […] discovered that Dark Elves, the Drow, had instigated the giant alliance and its warfare upon mankind and its allied races. Numbers of these evil elves fell before the onslaught of the party of adventurers, but many of the important Drow fled away to the northwest – the escape route a seemingly natural passage a full 30’ wide extending endlessly under the earth. […] [D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth – 2]
Thus begins D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth. Or do we mean Oerth. No matter. It’s a compilation module, a compiling of D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth and D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, much like G123 was a collecting of G1, G2, and G3.
And much like that earlier compilation, this one adds little new to what came before. The text is the same, the maps are the same, as are the encounter tables. That seems a bit of a missed opportunity, doesn’t it? But what did we expect, anyway? That said, this is already a fairly lengthy compilation. Its 28 pages is more in tune with what we had come to expect of the releases of the day. It’s not entirely identical, actually. We were treated to new art, far superior to my eye than much of what was in the earlier issues, although quite a few of those original inclusions are still present, too. So, why was D1-2 necessary when D1 and D2 were already out in the world? For the same reason G123 was: Its publication saved TSR printing costs; why continue to print two rather diminutive modules when they could issue one.

I digress. The giants have been defeated, but an evil race of dark-skinned elves has been discovered to be behind their attacks against the folk of Geoff, and presumably Sterich and the Yeomanry.
To what purpose, we ask? Discovering why is paramount!
The Underoerth
Pursuit of these creatures is necessary, for unless their location and strength are known, the Drow can continue to strike where and whenever they like without fear of counterattack or reprisal.
[D1-2 – 2]
Luckily, the drow left behind a map, one presumes leading back to their underoerth lair!
Fortunately, the party discovered a map of the maze of tunnels under the earth - hundreds of miles of passages, areas shaded and marked with cryptic symbols, and what is most probably the course of an underground river! [D1-2 – 2]
Lucky us!
Did the PCs blunder down into the depths after the retreating drow? I can only assume they did, initially. But I expect they were soon handed their hat and in retreat themselves, harried back up to the lighted world after biting off more than they could chew.
Or were they more cautious? You might recall that long ago, in an adventure far, far away, they were cautioned against being too rash. And to report back their findings….
A Secret Force...
[T]he party has been cautioned to expect a secret force, some motivational power behind this unusual banding of different races of giants. More surprises might be in store… […] 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.
[G123 Against the Giants – 2]
Perhaps they did just that.
Let’s assume they did… report back. And that they had meant to return all along (stranger things have happened); they were ordered to, after all.
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! [[G123 – 2]
The powers that be that sent them on their mission in the first place don’t seem the forgiving type, do they, so the PCs probably did.
So, they returned, they reported, and they are prompted to delve down deeply into this vast underdark to discover what motivated these drow to drive the giants to attack on the surrounding settlement on the surface. Presumably to put and end to their nefarious plans.
Who does volunteer for this dangerous mission? I do mean volunteer, because we must assume that none are coerced into participation since our potential cast of characters changes from G123 to D1-2. I’m talkin’ pregens here.
Into the Deep Dark
G123 presented us with 9 in total, 6 of whom are human, the rest rounded out with 1 high elf, 1 half-elf, and 1 dwarf. Of these, only 2 opt to continue on in D1-2: the high elf Fonkin Hoddypeak (F/M-U) and the half-elf Beek Gwenders of Croodle (R). Gone are Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter (M-U), Faffle Dwe'o-mercraeft (M-U, obviously), Cloyer Bulse the Magsman (T), Roaky Swerked (C), Frush O'Suggill (F), and Flerd Trantle (C). Apparently, the humans believed, now that the giants were dealt a blow from which they won’t soon recover, their involvement in this affair had come to an end. So much for common cause, and the altruism of brothers-in-arms. It would also seem that the dwarf Redmod Dumple (F) was only in it to crack a few giant skulls (and who could fault a dwarf in that regard). Who then would take up the cause?
Perhaps certain of the elvenfolk will help, for the Drow besmirch and stain their race, and such aid - whether in magical items, personnel, or both - might well prove the difference between success and failure, life and death. [D1-2 – 2]
It would seem that it's only the elven folk who believe the drow to be a clear-and-present danger: 3 grey elves, Darg Blonke (F), Ycore Rixie (F/M-U), and Fage the Kexy (C); a wood elf, Fnast Dringle (F/M-U); and another half-elf, Shab Heanling (T), answer the call. A gnome does, as well, Keak Breedbate of Nithe (F/T). Only one human is willing to join them, a paladin by the name of Philotomy Jurament. [You’ll forgive me for writing all those names out, I do love the absurdity of them! But where in gods' name is Croodle and Nithe, I wonder?]
Why such a change? I suppose Mr. Gygax reasoned that multi-class characters, and elves in particular, had a better chance of success against what might come than the prior humancentric offerings. One questions that wisdom, though, given that he once wrote that the drow neither forgive nor forget, and above all else they bear enmity for all of their distant kin — elves and faeries — who drove them down and now dwell in the meadows and dells of the bright world. [G123 – 29]

Drow neither forgive nor forget...

Why is any of this important when players could run their own PCs through the adventure? I believe the pregens were important because, used or not, these characters gave DMs a template on how much magic high-level characters could hope to expect. I expect, though, that most 9th to 14th level characters had a great deal more than that given here. Far more! Even as I write this, I recall characters of mine decked out with more magic than Gary might have originally imagined an archmage to have had opportunity to gather, an all too common likelihood when considering the abundance of magical items scattered about in each and every adventure module I’ve ever read or played.

May fortune follow...
Whomever might be venturing forth, pregens or otherwise, preparations must be made before embarking. One expects, anyway.
But such an expedition will certainly require the utmost thought and care in planning and preparation. How many persons should comprise the expedition? how will they be supplied and equipped? and what of drinking water? [D1-2 – 2]
Unless the PCs sallied forth upon completion of the G series without delay, which I suppose is/was as likely a possibility as any. Or so I imagine. I/we were as rash, once upon a time.
What follows? Adventure. D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth and D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. This actually brings me full circle back to the beginning of this piece. And to these two earlier mentioned posts: Thoughts on D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, and Thoughts on D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa. I invite you to peruse them, if you haven't already. No point in my repeating myself, after all. Not too much, anyway.

“And whichsoever way thou goest, may fortune follow.”
― Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

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:
D1-2 cover, by Jim Roslov, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981
The Underoerth, by Erol Otus, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981
Drow, by Bill Willingham, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981
Into the Deep Dark, by Erol Otus, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981
Drow Prisoner, by Jeff Dee, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981
D1-2 back cover, by Erol Otus, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1981

9019 D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, 1978
9020 D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, 1978
9059 D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, 1978, 1981
9058 G123 Against the Giants, 1978, 1981

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