Friday, December 5, 2008

Review: A1 The Slave Pits




This was the first module that I bought back in 1980, so I will always have nostalgic feelings for it, and even now, I think it is still one of my favorite modules.

Background

This was the first in a four part Gencon tournament that was held around 1980. The results of this were published in the form of A1-A4 between 1980-1981. The final published module included the tournament versions plus some additional material to give it a bit more content than just a tournament module. David Cook wrote a good intro to the Scourge of the Slavers, this was the combined A1-A4 plus some addition material, which he outlined the background of the original concept.

Basic outline

The outline of all the Slave Lord adventures follows these basic guidelines:
2 Traps
1 Trick to fool the players
1 Problem the players had to solve
1 Encounter with the basic monster of the
round (orcs, hobgoblins, gnolls, etc.)
1 Ambush prepared by the basic monster of
the round
1 Encounter with the basic monster and a
friend (an ogre, for example)
1 Encounter with an unintelligent monster
1 Encounter with a brand new monster
1 Grand Finale
Layout

The module follows the basic layout of the time, with the standard two adventuring levels, in this case an above ground temple area and the sewer dungeon level below. The maps are printed on the inner covers with a 24 page book that outlines the encounters, includes new monsters, and some pregenerated characters. The new monsters were the sundew and the aspis, which would see a full write up in the MM2 that was produced several years later. When looking at this module in relation to the others at the time, I would say that it is no better or worse than the others. The art is black and white, and the fluff is rather light. The flavor in the rooms is very good and gives more than enough description for the DM to work with. This module was one of first to utilize the boxed read out loud sections, as this was not featured in earlier modules. Adventures written after this would almost always include a readout loud sections in the encounter write ups.

Summary

As I stated earlier, I really liked this module. Part of my positive feelings on this module was that it was the first one I bought. I think a lot of the criticism leveled at this module was that it is a tournament module, and tournament modules tend to be standardized in format, and come across as "cookie cutter" modules. I think that is a fair comment. In this case, I think the outline is fairly solid, and there is enough additional material added to enable it to be more than just a tournament module. I would also say that there is enough to challenge a good party of mid level characters, but there is nothing really special about it that separates this one from the rest of the modules at the time.

As a final note, I would classify this module as a challenge dungeon, one in which the players "win" at, which is a little different than current adventure design. When one goes through this module, there is definitely a feeling of players v. the dungeon. The challenges in the main sections of the adventure are meant to challenge the characters. With the defeat of the slave lords at the end, this module is effectively over.

Rating: 3.5 Dragons (on a scale of 5)

Perhaps a bit high, but I will give in to my more sentimental side on this one.

6 comments:

sacha3791 said...

I've just stumbled upon your blog and am enjoying reading through the posts. There are so many great gaming blogs around at the moment and yours certainly is up there with the best of them, bravo sir.

I love the Slavers series of modules and consider them to be some of the best old school adventures ever written. I ran the first level of A1 as my knockabout, let's have a giggle, Yuletide game last year and it went down a storm. The session climaxed with the battle against the Cleric and her minions in the temple area of level 1. the look on the players' faces when the Troll leapt out of the wooden box was priceless.

Keep up the good love for the old school, sir and I will continue reading your erudite and entertaining blog.

Mr Baron said...

Many thanks for the kind words. I really liked the Slaver series, so I could not resist starting out my reviews with the series that I first bought. I know there are a lot of folks that like some of the other modules better, but I will always have soft spot for these.

To your other comment, there are a lot of good blogs out. It seems like I am discovering a new one every day. Over the holidays, I have a lot of reading to do!

sacha3791 said...

If you get a chance have a quick look at my ramblings at:

http://sacha3791.livejournal.com

There are all manner of gaming-related gibberings on there and I will soon be blogging about the genesis of a large, multi-DM game of AD&D set in the World of Greyhawk, which may just tickle your fancy.

Mr Baron said...

I have indeed read through your blog. I noticed lots of posts on Traveller!

sacha3791 said...

Guilty, as charged m'lord. I've been a Traveller nerd for a long time and have finally gotten around to running a campaign for my current regular group. Ok, so it's a science fiction game, but it's still old school and I love it!

Traveller shares a sacred space in my gaming world, alongside AD&D, RuneQuest, MERP, Pendragon and Call of Cthulhu.

As I said previously, expect a storm of AD&D related posts in the new year.

Incidentally, I'm loving your writings on the Paladin.

Mr Baron said...

I have not played Traveller in decades..yikes! Back in high-school I played quite a bit. If I was going to get back into SCI-FI role playing, I would be very tempted to give WH40K - Dark Heresy a try.