I am in the process of reviewing all four of the Slave Lord modules, and this represents installment #3. These have special nostalgic value to me as there were the first modules I bought, so I am starting with these four modules first before going to other products.
This was the third in a four part Gencon tournament that was held around 1980. The results of this were published in the form of the modules A1-A4. The final published module included the tournament version plus some additional material to give it a bit more content than just a tournament module. I included the basic outline in my first review, so I will not repeat it here, but suffice to say that this module follows the same basic outline as the first module. The links to the first two reviews can be found here (A1) and here (A2).
The module is very similar to the basic layout of the time, with a dungeon level, followed by a city/urban environment, concluding with the final dungeon. The main maps are printed on the inner covers with a 28 page book that includes the encounters write ups, a new monster, and some pregenerated characters that were used in the tournament. The module also includes a players’ handout of Suderham, along with a tactical map reference page, which has four tactical encounter details. The back cover of the booklet includes two maps of the Isle of the Slave Lords – an overhead view and a cross section cutaway view. The new monster included was the storoper, which would see a full write up in the later MM2 that was produced several years later. The module includes the relatively new feature of the read aloud box text. When looking at the layout of this module in relation to the others at the time, I would say that it is no better or worse than the others, and it is very similar in quality to the others in the series.
Compared to the other modules in the series, this one has quite a bit of artwork. The overall quality this module is the same as the others in the series, and is very representative of the artwork of the period.
Following the trail of the Slave Lords leads the characters into the Drachensgrab Mountains searching for the hidden city of the Slave Lords. The characters find a secret cave complex that leads to the Isle of the Slave Lords. On the isle, the characters enter the city of Suderham and find a secret sewer entrance, which is believed to lead to the Slaver’s stronghold. Unfortunately for the characters, the only thing that awaits them is capture, and the end game will be played out in A4 – In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords.
There are a couple of features that this module provides that I am going to list out below:
1. The fully mapped out city of Sunderham, complete with a players’ handout map. I think this is the biggest feature of the adventure. There are 68 encounter areas, which the module provides a basic outline for.
2. The mapped out Isle of the Slave Lords.
This is an interesting module that serves as the transition from a traditional dungeon crawl to the non-traditional dungeon crawl that will be found in A4. Even though this is not the biggest module in terms of page count, this module does cover quite a bit of territory. The module includes two single level dungeons, but the primary adventure area is the city of Suderham, which in my opinion, the city is the most interesting aspect of the module. All the city areas are listed out, but there is plenty of room for the DM to add to. I found the dungeon levels to be mediocre. They are both small at nine major encounters in each. While a couple of the encounters are interesting, overall they are nothing to write home about. The minotaur in the sewer complex is probably my favorite encounter of the bunch. There are two opportunities that I think the authors missed out on. For the first one, I am a bit disappointed that the authors did not provide a map and a write up for Drachen Keep that is found on the isle. The module is written so that it forces the characters through the city and into the sewers, so while the keep is not a major element of the module, it would have been more interesting to include it in the write-up. I also wish that the authors included a strategic map of the Drachengrab Mountains, which would have been easy to include a one page copy from the Greyhawk map. While there exists the possibility for a substantial amount of overland adventuring, this will need to be fleshed out by the DM.
I do need to mention that the entire point of the module is for the characters to be captured at the end of the module, in order to start up the next module. This form of railroading is sure to incite the ire of players as they may feel that this is a very heavy handed plot device, and I am inclined to agree. The end definitely has a no win feel to it, which the characters may not appreciate. I think if a DM is running this, some forewarning is required, so that expectations are set ahead of time. This could prevent disappointment or worse at the end of the module.
Overall, I still give the module a thumbs up, but it is not nearly as strong as the first two.
Rating: 3 Dragons (on a scale of 5)