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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Goofiest Official Dungeons & Dragons Adventures

This is art from the actual, official D&D adventure "Castle Greyhawk"
Warning: new edition of D&D approaching. We might as well start working "tenday" into our every day conversations.

I have mentioned a few times in past blogs that I never much cared for the sense of humor in TSR-produced Dungeons and Dragons products. It's one thing to throw in a joke somewhere, one time. Like a one-paragraph flumph encounter in a fart cloud-trap room or something. But it's another thing entirely when you base the entire premise of an adventure or product on something that appeals to your '50's style Looney Tunes sense of humor. I am paying money for adventures where my players jump off of flying ships onto the backs of dragons, not questing for Odin's colossal whoopee cushion or whatever.

I began to wrack my brain for some of the more amusing or egregious examples of terminal, eye-rolling, somebody-shoot-me, who-actually-laughs-at-this BS from official D&D products. I immediately recalled quite a bit of stuff from Dungeon Magazine, but I've decided to limit it to non-magazine material.

No, one of the first things that popped in my mind was from the Al Qadim setting. For you younger folks, Al Qadim was an arabian-style D&D setting that came out right around the time the Disney Aladdin movie did. It was great timing. It's a very overlooked setting and very much worth tracking down.

The Al Qadim setting of Zakhara is on the same world as Toril, aka the Forgotten Realms. Zakhara is to the south or something. Deep in the City of Delights boxed set is a fellow named:

I actually like this one.
This guy lives in the city of Huzuz. He looks just like Elminster. But he's not. He's "Elfinster". And he gets really mad when you confuse the two!

Honestly, I actually got a kick out of this back then. I don't know if you remember this, but there used to be articles/short stories in Dragon Magazine where Elminster would meet with some powerful NPC, and TSR employee Roger Moore would be there hiding and eavesdropping. I remember a drawing of him hiding in a suit of armor, shaking, as Elminster had some tense negotiation with a powerful person of note.

In my campaign, I had Roger Moore accidentally visit Elfinster through some cosmic confusion. He was stuck in Al Qadim, and became a buddy of the PCs. All sorts of horrible D&D-type things would happen to him. I think he ended up as a zombie wandering the desert.

Your High Level PCs go to... New York City

What a waste of cool art
The Immortal Storm has a truly badass cover by Larry Elmore which the interior doesn't really live up to. Our heroes... high level "immortals".. go on a fetch quest throughout the multiverse for objects that represent each of the five senses.

The quest for the essence of sound takes the adventurers to a plane of music notes (yep).

The quest for the essence of smell takes them to... New York City. Yeah. Because it's smelly! Fuhgetaboutit!

The author just goes on and on, describing this "strange world" and all its' "weird customs" with sentences like:

"Many countries pursue an expensive nuclear hobby, spending vast sums on the creation of atomic weapons but never using them, all the while ignoring widespread needs of the people such as food, shelter, the arts and so forth."

Our heroes appear in a subway car and have an encounter with "local ruffians". Our ultimate destination: a laboratory for a major perfume manufacturer in Illinois.
"Hold up, gang. I think Knocko smells somethin'."
The gang of 80's movie thugs are "The Fangs": Mig, Bruno, Butch, Knocko (really..? KNOCKO?), Big Chuck, Raoul, Stiggie and The Cub. They say they want a donation to their college funds, and that it is "tax deductable". They say this to your level 30 D&D character.

If the PCs beat them up, they have the opportunity to join the Fangs! The adventure says the PCs would be wise to join, for the purposes of gaining  information. But it warns: "They should not spend their nights out mugging victims.."

If the PCs go to Harlem: "Over 90% of the local residents are dark-colored, openly scornful of light-colored folk."

We also learn that:

Can your heroes defeat this secret agent posing as a secretary?!
- One gold piece is worth 500 dollars
- A PC can learn to operate a car in 6 rounds. SIX ROUNDS.

The secretary at Creative Fragrances Laboratories is super-hot and actually a secret agent for the National Intelligence Agency. She is a 10th level thief who does quadruple damage with a handgun on a roll of 19 or 20.

After our heroes buy their perfume of smelling, a giant worm rampages through New Yawk. If the PCs talk to it, it is impressed with them and decides not to fight them.

Queen of the Demonweb Pits

Deck A Room 1: So here you are. At last, you are finally going to fight the demon lord/demi-god Lolth on her weird Spidership. You go inside and in the first room is a type V demon (that's a marilith - 6 armed woman with a snake bottom half) who sits at a desk that is far too small for her. The desk is littered with papers. She calmly tells the PCs that they need to sign in. She then asks the party to have a seat in chairs lining the walls (like a doctor's office). She can't find the ledger that the heroes are supposed to heroically sign in on and might cry about it. She leaves to look for it and a few minutes later she finds it and returns. If the PCs waited patiently, she escorts them right to Lolth in room 13.

Yes, this is the penultimate adventure of one of the great D&D adventure series of all time. Sign in to go fight Lolth. WHAT.

Castle Greyhawk

Then, of course, there is the legendary Castle Greyhawk. Looking through it now, it really feels like a middle finger not to Gary Gygax but to me, the reader. Fans waited so long for THE dungeon to finally be released... and it's a joke.

Castle Greyhawk was the dungeon Gary Gygax created to playtest Dungeons & Dragons with in his home campaign. It is the place where Melf (Melf's Acid Arrow), Otto (Otto's Irresistible Dance), Tenser (Tenser's Floating Disk) and many more adventured in. Gary Gygax used to write about it in early issues of Dragon Magazine.

There's a million stories and rumors about what may or may not have happened in that original campaign. There was a mysterious man made of gold that the heroes chased around but never caught. There was an "ogre highway" - full of ogres. There was an entire dungeon level full of dragons!

Once Gary Gygax was gone from TSR, Castle Greyhawk was finally published - as a 128 page parody adventure. Some people claim this was made just to stick it to Gary, while others say that's not true. All I know is that this is a partial list of the monsters in the adventure:

Mustard Jelly
Mini-Onions of Set
Horizontal Jet-Propelled Piercer (a stalagmite that attacks like a homing missile)
Minitaurs (3 foot tall minotaurs)
"Zando's Performing Porpoises"
Killer Dolphins
Uniducks (unicorn ducks that "tend to squash when sat upon")
"Oh, hello Poppinfresh!"
A Flesh Golem Butler who asks, "Hors d'oeuvres?" over and over.
"Poppinfarsh" the Dough Golem
Strawberry Gelatinous Cube

Check out this part:

The PCs end up as waiters at a party for orcs. Their job is to fill people's water. Asmodeus, Lord of Hell, shows up with three pit fiends, not amused at being summoned for this stupid party. A wizard named Mudstone animates roasted seagulls, making them dance on the dinner table for some reason. Worst of all, this is even railroady. "All this happens so fast, the PCs can do little else but watch. If they try to escape, attack, or otherwise draw attention to themselves, the pit fiends cast pyrotechnics and produce flame as necessary to keep them in their place."

I have two reactions to this:

1. What absolute asshole would waste everyone's time and money just to troll their paying customers? It would be bad enough to just publish this under some joke name (Like: "The Worst Adventure of All Time"), but they actually called it Castle Greyhawk!

2. I kind of love the idea of getting some people together, getting really drunk, rolling up terrible characters and playing through this whole thing.

Here's some places you can go to:

Otto's Irresistable Dance Studio
The Demi Plane of Flowers

OK, I'm sort of amused now.

The final room in CASTLE GREYHAWK is the home of an illusionist named Voyeux who spends his time watching a giant tapestry which is basically a TV. He has a "random monster generator" that spits out monsters... you the DM roll on tables to generate them (that's pretty clever)... it feels like something you'd need to roll up well ahead of time. In fact, that is one of the last sentences in the whole book, a warning for the DM to roll up a bunch of these monsters prior to running it. Let's roll one now:

Man-Sized Average-Looking Chaotic Neutral Creature AC -1 (That's a 21 AC in D&D Next terms) 33 hit points  3 attacks per round
- Regenerates 1 HP per round
- Has a 1 Intelligence
Has these powers:
- Detect Illusion
- Silence
- Haste

Well, I don't know what that is. I seriously kind of want to run this. See you next time!

1 comment:

Timothy Brannan said...

I ran Castle Greyhawk once. It was awful. But, it was also surprisingly deadly. IT starts out tame and by the time you get to bottom you are begging for the exit.

Frankly it put me off of mega-dungeons till this very day.