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.