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    Canonfire :: View topic - Supermodules
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    Supermodules
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Aug 10, 2003
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    Sun May 26, 2024 10:10 am  
    Supermodules

    In the days of yore, TSR packaged up a series of modules to make one big compilation - a "supermodule" if you will. In an effort to make the whole more than just the sum of its parts, materials were added to the already published modules and the idea was that the entirety of these modules could make one huge campaign. The modules in question were: T1-4, A1-4, and GDQ 1-7 - known as "The Temple of Elemental Evil", "Scourge of the Slavelords", and "Queen of the Spiders".

    I finally got a copy of the Scourge of the Slavelords - I already owned the other two. So in the spirit of being a reviewer and a completist, I want to go through each of these supermodules and see what was added, taken away, and whether they succeeded in making the first adventure path of D&D.

    Let's see how these products stack up!

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon May 27, 2024 12:37 pm  
    T1-4 Supermodule

    Starting off with the first one, T1-4, it is hardly fair to critique. Out of the alleged four modules it is based on, only one, T1 The Village of Hommlet, was ever separately published. So in essence, three quarters of the supermodule is new material.

    But I will press on in my usual review style. This was published in 1985, and its format set the standard for the other supermodules TSR would produce. It was a 128-page book with a 16-page map insert. Almost all of the art in this book is new, there really was not much in T1 anyway.

    I will go into the pros and cons of this in another post.

    O-D
    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed May 29, 2024 11:06 am  
    Adventure Path

    The first unofficial adventure path could be WG1-WG6. But these were not supermodules. WG1 was renamed T1 and was released in 1979. WG2 was renamed T1-4. WG3 was renamed S4. WG6 was released in 1985. These would cover levels 1-18+.

    T1-4 covers levels 1-8.
    A1-4 covers levels 7-11.
    GDQ1-7 was released in 1986. It covers levels 8-14.

    Interestingly, the A series has an A0 for "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry" from 2015 for levels 1-3 (nevermind what the front cover says) and what I'll call A0.5 for "Lowdown in Highport" from Dungeon Magazine - #221 from 2013 for levels 3-5. So those bits aren't in either the original modules or in the supermodule.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Fri May 31, 2024 8:53 am  
    The positives

    The Pros:

    Again, this is hardly a genuine review of the supermodule format, because in this case, the supermodule is all we have of ToEE. Because that, this supermodule is a must have for the Greyhawk fan.

    There is a lot of lore packed into the adventure, but some of it is obscure. There did not seem to be any canonical follow on with some details. The dungeon of the temple is huge, making it an early example of a megadungeon (though in number of levels it is not really that deep - but the levels do sprawl).

    A lot of players and DMs used T1 as their introduction to Greyhawk, so for that alone this adventure gets a lot of nostalgia points. Bottom line is that this supermodule is required reading for the Greyhawk fan.

    O-D
    CF Admin

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    Fri May 31, 2024 11:56 am  
    Re: Supermodules

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    In an effort to make the whole more than just the sum of its parts, materials were added to the already published modules [snip]

    So in the spirit of being a reviewer and a completist, I want to go through each of these supermodules and see what was added, taken away, and whether they succeeded in making the first adventure path of D&D.


    Some of the added material was interesting, more so in A1-4 than GDQ1-7, as I recall, but I don’t recall there being a ton in either.

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:

    and the idea was that the entirety of these modules could make one huge campaign.


    And that, of course, was always the problem with this concept in the first place, since the original campaigns were unrelated, and the levels sequences out-of-order….

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    The modules in question were: T1-4, A1-4, and GDQ 1-7 - known as "The Temple of Elemental Evil", "Scourge of the Slavelords", and "Queen of the Spiders".


    S1-4 did something of the same, while omitting most of S3, and B1-9, but ISTR that they were even more so hatched jobs.

    Allan.
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    Fri May 31, 2024 12:09 pm  
    Re: T1-4 Supermodule

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:
    But I will press on in my usual review style. This was published in 1985, and its format set the standard for the other supermodules TSR would produce. It was a 128-page book with a 16-page map insert.


    The T1-4 map booklet is probably the worst-produced set of maps for any published TSR module: they’re sloppy, inaccurate, and just plain poorly-rendered. The fact that they were also much smaller than the 8.5x11” standard size only exacerbated the issue further (although the maps being separate and not bound-in was quite useful).

    Allan.
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    Fri May 31, 2024 12:35 pm  
    Re: Adventure Path

    Raymond wrote:
    The first unofficial adventure path could be WG1-WG6. But these were not supermodules. WG1 was renamed T1 and was released in 1979. WG2 was renamed T1-4. WG3 was renamed S4. WG6 was released in 1985. These would cover levels 1-18+.


    An interesting idea I had never considered!

    T1-4 was 1-8; WG4 was levels 5-10; S4 was 6-10; WG5 was 1985 for levels 9-12; WG6 was 18+. That still leaves a large gap between WG5 and WG6, but Gary, Steve Marsh, and Skip Williams we’re working on planar modules like Starstrands (some info on Steve’s site at https://adrr.com/story/sketch.htm#StarStrands and I have a TSR memo I’ll try to refind my typed-up text for), and Shadowlands (some info at the Acaeum at https://www.acaeum.com/library/research.html).

    My hunch is that Rob Kuntz’s Xaene and PlantMaster modules (Xaene first done as an RPGA scenario in 1983, self-published by Rob in 1987-88) were also intended to fit into the mix here, along (of course) with the unpublished Stoink and City+Castle Greyhawk and Lost City of the Elders serieses.

    Raymond wrote:

    A1-4 covers levels 7-11.

    Interestingly, the A series has an A0 for "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry" from 2015 for levels 1-3 (nevermind what the front cover says) and what I'll call A0.5 for "Lowdown in Highport" from Dungeon Magazine - #221 from 2013 for levels 3-5. So those bits aren't in either the original modules or in the supermodule.


    Since the individual A1-4 modules were originally for levels 4-7, the prequel adventures fit in better with the original level ranges.

    Allan.
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    Fri May 31, 2024 12:45 pm  
    Re: The positives

    Osmund-Davizid wrote:

    A lot of players and DMs used T1 as their introduction to Greyhawk, so for that alone this adventure gets a lot of nostalgia points. Bottom line is that this supermodule is required reading for the Greyhawk fan.


    That said, in addition to the abysmal maps, the editing in T1-4 was also pretty shoddy. The original T1 text was trimmed/abridged intentionally or just screwed up during production, removing details present in the original module.

    Trent Smith did some nice work analyzing the issues with T2-4 on his blog; see:

    - https://mystical-trash-heap.blogspot.com/2017/05/d-reclaiming-temple-of-elemental-evil.html
    - https://mystical-trash-heap.blogspot.com/2017/05/d-reclaiming-temple-of-elemental-evil_19.html

    And created campaign activity tables for Hommlet:
    - https://mystical-trash-heap.blogspot.com/2017/04/d-activity-tables-for-village-of-hommlet.html

    Allan.
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    Allan Grohe (grodog@gmail.com)
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    Fri May 31, 2024 1:50 pm  
    Re: Supermodules

    grodog wrote:

    S1-4 did something of the same, while omitting most of S3, and B1-9, but ISTR that they were even more so hatched jobs.
    Allan.


    I am not sure "hatchet job" is sufficient to describe B1-9.
    B1 is just the map with no key, B2 loses the keep and outdoor areas, B4 drops the partially described lower levels, the outdoor material for B5 was deleted, two of three outdoor paths in B8 were skipped, and one part of the five in B9 was not included.
    It is just short of false advertising on the cover as "the best of the B-Series modules".
    If you want the B1-9 modules, you need to buy them, not the partial compilation.
    CF Admin

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    Sun Jun 02, 2024 12:07 pm  
    Re: Supermodules

    Samwise wrote:
    grodog wrote:

    S1-4 did something of the same, while omitting most of S3, and B1-9, but ISTR that they were even more so hatched jobs.
    Allan.


    I am not sure "hatchet job" is sufficient to describe B1-9. [snip]

    If you want the B1-9 modules, you need to buy them, not the partial compilation.


    I was being too generous, you’re right, Sam: B1-9 was a valueless cash grab ;)

    Allan.
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Jun 02, 2024 4:28 pm  
    bad parts of ToEE

    So now I come to the cons part of ToEE.

    I confess, part of this is going to be personal to me, but I tried to like this supermodule, but just do not. I know it is a "classic" and has been voted on being one of the top adventures in D&D (#4 according to issue 116 of Dungeon Magazine), but I never really cared for this product as it was presented.

    This last point is important, as with all review of modules and adventures, you are free to modify as your style and campaign warrant it, but to have a common reference a review needs to try and keep their insights to what was presented in the product itself, not what you can modify on your own. And as I see it, this product was a let down, especially compared to the hype surrounding its release. Finally, we were going to get a huge supermodule of a place that was steeped in Greyhawk lore, but what we got was really more of a 'meh' large dungeon.

    Don't get me wrong, there are some its and pieces in it that should really be considered a pro: we got stats for a new demon! That was welcome. But this particular demoness was not really elemental based. Now, Zuggtmoy did have connections to Iuz and Greyhawk lore, so having her in the mix made sense in that respect. But the module kinda makes her lame: she "decided that Elemental Evil would have more appeal than a cult dedicated to her beloved fungi", while maybe being more practical in a humanocentric way, nothing says that you are a big, powerful demon more than ditching your motif for a generic elemental one.

    I liked the idea of the different factions of elemental evil and other powers competing in the temple. That lended itself to some role playing opportunities. But all in all, I think this product could have benefitted from being published as separate modules first, T1 being Hommlet, maybe having T2 be Nulb and the outer portions of the temple, and T3 and T4 being the upper and lower levels. In that manner, the entire dungeon and plot could have been kept in more bite sized portions making it easier to resolve some of the conflicting plot points and ideas.

    I think I always just expected something better in the vein of the GDQ series. We got a big adventure to be sure, but I am left with it just not really being that memorable in the same way the best Greyhawk adventures did.

    O-D
    GreySage

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    Sun Jun 02, 2024 5:24 pm  

    Regarding ToEE cons:

    I played through it first as a kid in high school, then later ran it as the DM. My main problem with the adventure itself was that I just didn't understand many of the sub-plots going on. Nulb, as a side-trek, didn't seem to be necessary. Lareth and Falrinth, both apprently human, worshipping Lolth seemed out of place - Lareth was supposed to be supervising the provisioning of the Temple, IIRC, and Falrinth had a secret lair hidden right in the Temple itself.

    I grew up playing (and DMing) Basic and Expert and Advanced D&D modules, so I know how they were written. But, the chaotic randomness of the various rooms' occupants made no sense whatsoever. It's no wonder those idiot elemental clerics couldn't raise an army. ToEE takes too much work by the DM to make it into a believable campaign, in my opinion.

    SirXaris
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    Mon Jun 03, 2024 2:25 pm  

    T1-4 does have its flaws.

    The lower level and elemental nodes seem very thrown together and played out as a pretty dull, brutal slog after the brutal slog of the third level. And then of course there is the rather casual 5% or so chance of instant death via deus ex random die roll.

    I definitely agree about the plot issues with Lareth and Falrinth. While people love the Lolth references, I think they are best simply changed to being Zuggtmoy, and never mind the crossover with GDQ.

    I have also noted in the past, particularly when the edition wars start up, the raw amount of treasure, both coin and magical, compounded by stripping the fittings (picking up every bit of mundane equipment) which is called out in the instruction text. Never mind local inflation in Hommlet, the entire economy of Verbobonc should be threatened with collapse if all of that is dumped on the market!

    The magic deserves particular attention. There are perhaps a dozen men-at-arms and NPC captives to be found and offered employment. There is enough magic arms and armor for all of them to be strutting around with +1 everything without impinging on character equipment in the slightest. That is before getting to the rods, staffs, wands, and wondrous items, which are enough to equip another party.

    Ultimately, while I mostly like it, I understand those who do not. It is not an easy module to love.
    GreySage

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    Mon Jun 03, 2024 10:54 pm  

    Samwise wrote:
    T1-4 does have its flaws.

    The lower level and elemental nodes seem very thrown together and played out as a pretty dull, brutal slog after the brutal slog of the third level. And then of course there is the rather casual 5% or so chance of instant death via deus ex random die roll.


    True...

    Though my dwarven cleric/fighter had the perfect justification for calling on Moradin with his Necklace of Prayer Beads [summon your deity] to save the party when Iuz showed up. The DM said we heard Moradin's voice boom out, "Cuthbert! Handle this!" and St. Cuthbert appeared and battled Iuz while we escaped through a mirror that would teleport us elsewhere. Laughing

    Quote:
    Ultimately, while I mostly like it, I understand those who do not. It is not an easy module to love.


    And, true. I do like the module. I just prefer many others that require far less work on my part as the DM.

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    Sun Jun 09, 2024 3:49 pm  
    Overall Impression of ToEE

    Alrighty - here is my overall impression of the T1-4 supermodule.

    As a collector of Greyhawk and a fan of the setting, this is something that you should own, either electronically or in print. But just being reviewed on its own merits, ToEE is not a great product as it is written. I suspect a lot of the folks who give it high praise began their D&D careers with T1 - and on the power of that module give higher marks to T1-4 than they would otherwise, and/or be willing to do a lot of extra writing to cover up some of the module's flaws (I began my Greyhawk career with Orlane and Saltmarsh rather than Hommlet, so I definitely did not have a personal connection to any of the adventuring points in ToEE).

    So having said all of that, I give this product two stars out of five. If you can get this for a reasonable price, you should definitely do so, but it may be more for a collection then for actual play.

    O-D
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