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    Canonfire :: View topic - Boxed Set Adventures
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    Boxed Set Adventures
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    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 10, 2003
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    Sun Dec 11, 2022 12:51 pm  
    Boxed Set Adventures

    For a while there in the First and Second edition time frame, there were a lot of official TSR boxed sets released. The idea of a boxed set is that you could have multiple soft cover books of information, poster sized maps, and assorted handout and other goodies all put together. More than what you could include in a typical adventure module or rulebook.

    For Greyhawk, the obvious boxed sets are the settings for the entire world. The original World of Greyhawk boxed set had the glossography of Oerth in one book, the Guide to Greyhawk in another book, and the famous Darlene maps of the Flanaess.

    From the Ashes had the equivalent of all of those items, plus another set of maps detailing the City of Greyhawk region. There were also some cardstocks that held encounter tables, short adventures, some information regarding new spells, and deity information. Some new monsters (done as inserts in the Monstrous Compendium format designed to be added to that binder). That was truly a boxed set loaded to the brim!

    Released in between these two was the City of Greyhawk boxed set, another motherload of Greyhawk goodness. There was a book gazetteer of the city, a Folks, Feuds, and Factions book, many cardstocks of adventures, and poster sized maps of the city and the region around it.

    Yet another Greyhawk boxed set was the Greyhawk Wars. The history of the Wars booklet was the best part, but you got an entire wargame with this set.

    My point in all this exposition is that Greyhawk had a history of having epic sized boxed sets of products that detailed either the world, or a major region. Those items are legendary in this community for the value they have given to the setting and background. But there were some adventures that received the boxed set treatment. I will be doing some reviews of these products in this thread - hopefully get some discussion going on these sets and their impact and playability on the WoG in general.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Thu Dec 15, 2022 7:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
    CF Admin

    Joined: Jun 29, 2001
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    Mon Dec 12, 2022 9:18 pm  
    Re: Boxed Set Adventures

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:

    My point in all this exposition is that Greyhawk had a history of having epic sized boxed sets of products that detailed either the world, or a major region. Those items are legendary in this community for the value they have given to the setting and background. But there were some adventures that received the boxed set treatment. I will be doing some reviews of these products in this thread - hopefully get some discussion going on these sets and their impact and playability on the WoG in general.


    Looking forward to your reviews, O-D! :D

    Allan.
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    Allan Grohe (grodog@gmail.com)
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    Journeyman Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 10, 2003
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    Thu Dec 15, 2022 8:04 pm  
    Reviewing box sets

    Ok, first let me give my ground rules for these reviews.

    I am sticking to boxed sets of adventures. The aforementioned boxed sets were campaign supplements or city settings, not adventures. So I will stick to just those "maxi-modules" from the first and second editions.

    I will give my usual pros and cons of each. But a couple things specific to these reviews will be 1) their usefulness/place in the Greyhawk setting and 2) what extras you get in the box. Bottom line will be whether this set is worth the box based on the amount of goodies you get in the set.

    So I will begin with my most recent acquisition.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Dec 17, 2022 8:02 am  
    The Night Below

    So to start off, I am going to break one of my own rules - I am reviewing a boxed set which I do not own the box. I got the Night Below on print-on-demand recently and have been reading and rereading it ever since. Getting this adventure is what inspired me to start this thread, as I saw that the "maxi-modules" in the boxed sets could use a review.

    So my initial impressions on the boxed will be a bit skewed as I can't really review all the handouts and maps as they come in the boxed set. But if you are getting this product now, order it on pdf format and print out the necessary parts and you will be fine. And there are a lot of handouts and maps to go through.

    I will start with the Pros of this adventure, then the Cons, then an overall review. So here goes, and just in case you are like me and missed out on this one from back in the day - SPOILERS ahead.

    O-D


    Last edited by Osmund-Davizid on Tue Dec 20, 2022 5:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sun Dec 18, 2022 7:21 pm  
    The Positives of Night Below

    Starting with the positives of Night Below:

    Pros: This setting, while officially neutral, really is a Greyhawk adventure in tone and style. The designer, Carl Sargent, wrote many of the 2nd ed supplements, and I think that the Greyhawk tone fits well with the other adventures of this time. Anna Meyer put the location of this adventure series in southern Yeomanry, and I think that perfectly fits in with the adventure as written. Additionally, some fans on the CF forums created a map of the Underdark merging the maps from this series, the GDQ series, and the Dungeon adventure "Kingdom of the Ghouls" into one large megamap. So it fits in seamlessly with other Greyhawk products.

    The adventure itself is really more of an adventure path. It advertises that it can take your players from 1st level to 10th and beyond. I will get into the finer points of that aspect later, but I like the set up - it begins easily enough, with low level characters becoming involved in investigating some kidnappings by bandits in a rural setting. After tracking down the kidnappers to some orc caverns, it is discovered that these crimes were just the tip of the iceberg, that some evil power from far below the earth is targeting spellcasters for some profane ritual. Turns out that it is the alien aboleth with their kuo toan allies directing the plot.

    I liked having the aboleth as the principles in this module. They have bizarre motivations, a cosmic horror vibe to them, and are not overused as typical underdark villains. Additionally, there are new creatures to fight (underworld ixitxachitlss) along with familiar ones, mind flayers and kuo toa, that make this part seem both an homage to the GDQ series and taking that idea in a different direction.

    This is challenging, dangerous, and a long term series of adventures. With all the handouts and maps, the boxed set is huge and well worth collecting. Having loved the classic GDQ series, this may be the perfect adventure to spring on a party familiar with that series, wanting to experience the same feeling of wonder with a similar but different feel.

    This adventure delivers on all that. There is a lot to say on the positive side of the ledger, but I will touch upon some of the downsides next.

    O-D
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 20, 2022 6:27 pm  
    The Cons of Night Below

    Now for the downsides.

    Cons: The adventure path takes your PCs from first level all the way to tenth and beyond. That is a lot of progress to make and under the old edition rules, your PCs are not likely to advance at rate needed in order to face the exponentially growing hazards of the Underdark. The really big beef with this adventure is that you go from orcs right into grells, oozes, trolls, kuo toans, and other high level monsters almost as soon as you enter the Underdark. The designer recognizes this, and recommends at various points in the narrative to allow the party to get more experience elsewhere if needed.

    Fortunately, if you set this adventure in the Yeomanry, there are ample published materials that take place in this area so that you can give your PCs a break and come back to the Underdark with more items and experience. For low level adventures, there is the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands module, the U series, the UK series, and (if you are really desperate) Gargoyle, all set in the southern Yeomanry/Sea Princes area. For mid level adventures, The Tomb of the Lizard King and Baltron's Beacon are available to get the PCs some needed extra experience.

    Another characteristic of this adventure is the need to be diplomatic. Tying in with the previous comment, it is likely your adventuring group will need assistance throughout their adventures in the Underdark. It is just too dangerous otherwise. There are groups that can provide alliances scattered in the caverns below: deep gnomes, renegade derro, separatist illithids, even a groups of demons can offer some alliance to the PCs. The problem with all that is that it can get confusing and difficult to adjudicate what each of these groups wants from the PCs and what actions may alienate them from cooperating n the future. Some DMs may not have the inclination to keep track of all these alliances and actions as the adventure progresses.

    Finally, there is introduced in this adventure a new sub race of elves that live in the underworld but are not drow - the Rockseers. The introduction of these elves is meant to be some of the best assistance that can be provided to the PCs, but to meet them is very difficult. Some argument can be made is that as a subrace, these elves are not necessary and even mucks up the already crowded network of elf races in the world. Their inclusion is clearly meant to be an epic level event in the elvish world. This plot point should be treated very carefully if you want to include it in your game world.

    As for me, it can be bypassed but again, the PCs will need to get some assistance through another source if this plot point is not used.

    The cons for this adventure boil down to matters of taste, so I am really kind of stretching here to put these points in the negative column. My overall assessment to follow.

    O-D
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 28, 2022 6:51 pm  
    Night Below Summary

    So my overall assessment of Night Below is that this is something that a Greyhawk fan should definitely have in their collection. Various people have placed it in the Flanaess, and it fits very well with established locations and products. While I cannot really evaluate the value of the boxed set, I can see from the print on demand version that it is loaded with maps, booklets and handouts, making it a good value and worth purchasing.

    There may be problems with strictly following the path as written, especially as the danger level rises, but that is fairly correctable. I view this as a 2e version of the D series of adventures, and I think it is a worthy effort. The plot is familiar but with enough differences to create a different role playing experience from other Underdark adventures.

    For additional information to supplement Night Below, check out articles in Dragon Magazine #131 for tables on travelling in underworld tunnels as well as an alternate look at the aboleth (this article gives an alternate view of the aboleth, as creatures of science, but it can mesh in with Night Below, so check it out for inspiration).

    So overall, I give it four stars out of five, spring it on your characters and use some of the epic plot points to make a mark on your Greyhawk campaigns.

    O-D
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 29, 2022 12:06 pm  

    I don't actually like the Night Below on the account that the aboleth are too deadly for my tastes with their domination and mucus membrane attacks. Their 2nd edition stats list the number appearing as 1d4, and I think that's about right for them; I don't want an entire city of them.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 07, 2023 4:23 pm  
    Return to the Tomb of Horrors

    Now I am getting into my actual boxed collections, and let's start with the big one: Return to the Tomb of Horrors!

    The basics: in the box we have one large 160 page adventure book, a booklet of 59 illustrations, a handout of a journal, a map and new monsters booklet, a card stock handout, and a full reprint of the original S1 module. That makes this boxed set a genuine value just based on the amount of materials it gives you.

    The Greyhawk connection is strong here, as it makes canonical the location of the original Tomb in the Vast Swamp. As an overview, this adventure is to take place after some parties have found and looted the Tomb - not necessarily the PCs for this adventure, but even if your group has done the original S1 module, there is enough new materials here that it will not likely make too much of a difference. You see, after some ages of luring in adventurers and killing them, a group of necromancers made a pilgrimage to the site of the Tomb and erected an evil school of necromancy on the spot. As followers of Acererak, they are studying dark energies that are coming from the tomb. These dark energies are making undead start to rise in the lands beyond the swamp.

    Thus, our current PCs find out about this "dark intrusion" and follow the clues into the swamp, infiltrate the necromancy school, and have to enter into the original Tomb of Horrors in order to stop this dar intrusion at its source.

    Let that sink in - you have to negotiate the original S1 module, the original death trap dungeon, at the mid point of this adventure with promises of worse to come! Talk about high stakes!

    I'll go over some more details in the near future, this was to be part of what was called the "Tomes" collection - a series of unrelated adventures that dealt with some artifacts/epic adventures in the 2nd edition. With this boxed set, the series had strong potential.

    More to follow...
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 21, 2023 10:18 am  
    Some more preface to the boxed set

    Before I dive into the pros and cons of the adventure itself, there are some additional materials I want to cover.

    In the original Tomb of Horrors, there was a list of six possible locations for the tomb in the world of Greyhawk. People have used these other possible locations to create false tombs of horror that the demi-lich Acererak uses to befuddle those who would attempt to loot his real tomb. I think one can use these false tombs as a way to warm up the party for the real thing, dropping clues as to how to avoid death in the real deal.

    One downloadable module was set in the Land of Iuz and is available on Dragonsfoot here:

    https://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=FE&fileid=308&watchfile=0

    Another version (which can mesh in quite well with the previous one) is in Issue 17 of Footprints, here:

    https://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=FT&fileid=305

    Both of these can serve as preambles to this adventure and are decent challenges in their own right.

    Other resources that can add some more depth/background to this adventure are found in Dragon Magazine. In Issue 249 there is an add on "Below the Tomb of Horrors" which has a hidden chamber below the original tomb which houses the architect who designed the tomb's undead spirit. As with the false tombs, this can be used as an extra source of lore and clues as to how to deal with the traps in the real tomb.

    In Dragon Issue 225 is a spellbook, Acererak's Libram, that can contain some bits of advice for negotiating the tomb if the DM is feeling charitable. There is an adventure hook in the article that has the party having to save the book from destruction before they can even read it that may be a nice lead into involving the party in this adventure int he first place.

    So these are some other parts of the lore of Acererak that you should check up on when attempting this adventure. They collectively add some depth to the plot and can be used to sprinkle in some clues to a careful party. Try them out!
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