Saturday 12 August 2023

Original Scenarios Resurrected X: The Tomb of the Waning Moon (1979, Russ Stambaugh)

Welcome to the tenth entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today is the turn of the previously unpublished sequel to Quest for the Fazzlewood, The Tomb of the Waning Moon from Michicon VIII by Russ Stambaugh. For all entries in the series see here.

From the early 70s Metro Detroit Gamers ran two annual gaming conventions - MichiCon and Wintercon. For Wintercon VII, December 1978, their members John Van De Graaf & Laurie Van De Graaf wrote a tournament adventure Quest for the Fazzlewood, a solo adventure concerning the exploits of Athelfrogg the Agile. MDG published this at the con, and later it was revised and expanded for publication by TSR as O1 The Gem and the Staff (the differences between the two are examined here). Because of this, originals of Quest for the Fazzlewood are amongst the most expensive of all D&D collectibles - and it's also a damn fine scenario.

For the next MDG con (MichiCon VIII, June 1979) another MDG member, Russ Stambaugh, prepared a follow-up adventure for Athelfrogg - The Tomb of the Waning Moon. It was advertised on the front of the program, and as you can see from the illustration it was a two player tournament adventure. Athelfrogg is joined by Balthazar - here they are depicted in the mists outside the Tomb lit by the light of the Waning Moon.

As it is for two players the time was extended to one hour. In this respect Waning Moon is similar to Escape from Astigar's Lair - a one hour two-player tournament adventure also played at MichiCon VIII (published later by Judges Guild) - but Waning Moon doesn't just keep the name Athelfrogg it also keeps the style of Fazzlewood with its puzzles and clues and (most obviously) the same style of dungeon map hand outs that was a key innovation of Fazzlewood.

The Tomb of the Waning Moon was unfortunately never published, but manuscripts survived and made their way into the hands of collectors. When I was researching my Complete History of 1970s D&D scenarios I came across scans of some pages of this module Adrian had shared on The Acaeum and from what I could see it looked fascinating. When I started this series I contacted Russell to see if he would agree to its inclusion, and I am extremely thankful to him that he has agreed for it to be republished here. As always, all rights are retained by the original author. In addition I also required Adrian's agreement to share his original copy, and thanks to Adrian's efforts we have the scenario I present for you today. Many thanks again, Russell and Adrian!

So, is it any good? Well we had a blast of a time playing it. Read on for my review and the scenario itself...

Saturday 15 July 2023

Saving the Fazzlewood (Quest for the Fazzlewood / O1 The Gem and the Staff)

Earlier this year at the start of March Kevin had just finished sorting out a heap of old junk to throw out and was flicking idly through Facebook when he realised that an image on an auction group looked familiar. "Is this trash?" his wife called upstairs, just as Kevin was reading just how much the item on the top of his heap of trash was going for. Saved at the last moment from destruction, Kevin posted a photo of his find on Facebook. "How rare?" he asked.

Originally run as a tournament at Wintercon VII and published by Metro Detroit Gamers, Quest for the Fazzlewood is very rare - but plenty of other modules are as rare, and they're not all worth a couple of thousand pounds.

It's also reasonably early - 1978 - but a hundred or so scenarios (including several TSR modules) predate it, so that doesn't explain it either.

No, the reason Quest for the Fazzlwood is worth thousands is because it was later republished by TSR in 1984 as the second half of O1 The Gem and the Staff (the Fazzlewood is the Staff of the module title).

So how does it differ? What difference does 6 years make? Is the original any good? Did TSR turn it into a professional publication, or did they sanitise all the good bits?

Unfortunately the very thing that prompts us to ask these questions is what prevents us from answering the question. O1 is available for just $4.99 from DriveThruRPG, but the Acaeum has Fazzlewood down as $2047 for a copy in only fair condition. Occasionally photos of the inside pages of Quest for the Fazzlewood appear on Ebay, usually frustratingly fuzzy, leaving its contents an enigma.

I was able to help Kevin out with an understanding of what he had saved and helped him sell it, and as thanks he let me view the elusive pages of the adventure. (Thanks Kevin!) At last I could answer the burning questions.

What I found was that Quest for the Fazzlewood is a far superior adventure to The Gem and the Staff. Although the production is rough around the edges, the original had oodles of atmosphere that was expunged in the rewrite. It's the lair of an evil Wizard - yet all the references to the supernatural such as Pentagrams and Demons have been removed in the revised version. Likewise human remains have been expunged - no skeleton in the closet, no human thigh bone on the desk, and the Ogres are no longer eating a dead body but a large piece of meat. Also the thief's Garotte and Blackjack have been removed. The introduction, an atmospheric piece in the style of the pulp adventures which inspired D&D, changes from inspirational scene setting to bland fare for mass consumption. Finally the change from OD&D to Basic/Expert has changed the spells available so one of the well crafted puzzles no longer makes sense.

I can't share the entire original adventure, but I can do what I hope is a pretty good alternative. I have prepared some conversion notes - or revision notes - what you have to change to revert The Gem and the Staff back into Quest for the Fazzlewood. Once again the module can be played as it was originally written.

But before we get into that lets start with some background on the module, and a review of the original adventure - a review based upon actually running the adventure as a tournament.

Sunday 25 June 2023

Original Scenarios Resurrected IX: Kandroc Keep II (1980, Brian K. Asbury)

Welcome to the ninth entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today is the turn of the previously unpublished sequel to Kandroc Keep, Kandroc Keep II by Brian K. Asbury. For all entries in the series see here.

When I was researching early D&D scenarios for my series on every single published D&D scenario of the 1970s, I was struck by the approach of these early scenarios which I found very refreshing, but also saddened by how many of them were long out of print and nigh on impossible to obtain.

An idea for this series started to germinate - I hoped to be able to make one or two rare long-out-of-print scenarios available again. At this stage the plan was simply to republish some of those out-of-print titles - I didn't expect to uncover unpublished material.

When Brian K. Abury's Kandroc Keep and Richard Bartle's The Solo Dungeon were published in 1979 they were meant to be the first in a series of solo D&D adventures. Brian completed a sequel, Kandroc Keep II, a second level to the dungeon, but (as was the way with most small press at the time) the publisher went bust before it was released. Brian had sent his original to the publisher, never to be seen again. Fortunately he retained a photocopy of the manuscript. Unseen for over 40 years, today I proudly present the previously unpublished second level.

Friday 31 March 2023

Original Scenarios Resurrected VIII: The Devil's Quagmire (1980, Andrew Ravenscroft)

Welcome to the eighth entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today is the turn of The Devil's Quagmire by Andrew Ravenscroft, with illustrations by Quentin Manley. For all entries in the series see here.

The Devil's Quagmire, published in The Beholder #16 in June 1980, was the last of Andy Ravenscroft's three published D&D scenarios, all illustrated by his friend Quentin Manley. Thanks to Andy I've already republished Clearwater Caverns and The Temple of Psaan, but in this third effort he really raised his game both in the quality of the content and the scope of the adventure. 

There is perhaps no better way to introduce The Devil's Quagmire than to quote a recent review at Prince Of Nothing of the adventure:

"Throw this in your campaign RIGHT NOW."

Read on to find out more and download it...

Friday 10 March 2023

Warkworth Castle - 10' squares turn out to be more historically accurate than we all thought

From the very earliest days of D&D people have criticized dungeons and castles that conform to 10' x 10' squares: that it's unrealistic that any castle or dungeon would be built to conform to a grid. Indeed my extensive visits to many Medieval Castles in the UK seemed to confirm that they were all anything-but designed to a grid.

Last summer whilst on holiday in Northumberland we visited Warkworth Castle, a fantastic medieval castle dating from the 1200s. It is fairly ruinous, but the late 14th century "Great Tower" only fell into disrepair in the 17th century and was restored less than 200 years later so is in remarkably good condition.

Warkworth Castle

At first glance Warkworth Castle appears to be as irregular any other castle, and there is certainly no regularity in the layout of the curtain walls.

As always I purchased a guidebook, as since childhood I have collected maps of all the castles we visit. Many of these maps are disappointing affairs, often very small and lacking detail such as the different floors. The Warkworth guidebook has a reasonable foldout map at the back (and a larger "pretty" isometric map inside which clarifies how the stairs connect) - but what attracted my attention was a note and a diagram in the margins that shows that Warkworth Castle was drawn to a grid, just not a 10' x 10' one, and not at all for the reasons you'd expect...

Monday 27 February 2023

Original Scenarios Resurrected VII: Kandroc Keep (1979, Brian K. Asbury)

Welcome to the seventh entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today is the turn of Kandroc Keep by Brian K. Asbury. For all entries in the series see here.

In my Complete Timeline of 1970s scenarios, Brian Asbury's 1979 scenario Kandroc Keep was literally a closed book to me. It was one of only two scenarios that I hadn't seen any of the contents of, only having ever seen its cover. As I wrote - "In the case of Kandroc Keep, I have located two people who owned copies - but one has mislaid theirs, and the other had donated theirs to a museum!"

In the end I managed to get in contact with the author, Brian Asbury, and he generously agreed not just to let me have a copy but also to republish it along with several other scenarios of his for this series - I'm still on the lookout for an original copy though (donations welcome!)

So, now I've seen it at long last, what's it like?

"Have a look at Kandroc Keep (1979) by Brian Asbury. It was written as a solo dungeon but is easy to convert. It's a blast" - online review of KK

Read on to find out more...