Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Beholder In D&D Adventures: The Fell Pass

The Beholder makes its first appearance in the pages of Supplement I: Greyhawk, in 1975.

We would have to wait until 1979 to see a Beholder appear in a published adventure. That adventure was "The Fell Pass", which was published in The Dragon magazine, Issue #32, in December 1979.

The Fell Pass is a dungeon crawl. It reminds me (a little) of the episode from The Hobbit, where the Dwarves are captured by the Goblins, and Bilbo first encounters Gollum. Since it is a mountain "pass", the party may enter the dungeon from either side, and make (or fight) their way through to the other side.

The Fell Pass is interesting, as it can be played simply as an attempt to make it from one side of the pass to the other, without dying. Alternately, you can also treat it as your standard dungeon crawl, or have a patron assign the cleansing of the pass to the party. In any event, there are no over-arching themes, no BBEG to kill, just some good old-fashioned tricks and puzzles, and mindless hack-n-slashery.

That is not to say there are no challenging adversaries or mind-blowing dangers in The Fell Pass. It is a dangerous module, and was probably informed by the other early modules of the day, including that most infamous of killer-dungeons, The Tomb of Horrors.

As for the Beholder, well, let's just say that Xorddanx is a wily and crafty opponent, and the Players will have a difficult time defeating him, as he uses the terrain and his followers to great advantage.

While The Fell Pass is not an "official" D&D module (you will not find The Fell Pass on any list of officially published adventures) it certainly could have been, it has that early D&D module quality and feel to it.


Norman J. Harman Jr. said...


Aaron E. Steele said...

If I find the time, I may have to post a couple of pages from the fell pass, it had a great vibe.

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Unknown said...

I have tried everywhere to find the Fell pass online...but cannot. If anyone can scan and post it, that would be outstanding! I am an ol US Marine veteran who played as a kid, now I play with my kids and niece and nephews. Its a great game to engage wits and imagination when you play it the right way, like a true RPG and not like D&D 4.o which plays like a video game...well then just play a video game. Its the true RPG that makes the game. Anyone have The Fell Pass? Please share to a fellow gamer. Semper Fi

SprintF said...

Holy Moly! The Internet never forgets! There wasn't even a World Wide Web when I wrote this module!
I guess you can tell I was kind of young when I did the artwork and writing for this. It's basically a graph paper dungeon dressed up a little with cross-hatching. If it doesn't sound grandiose, it was a teenager's attempt to mimic the moody work of artist Ian Miller. (Good Lord! The magazine cover is by Phil Foglio! We've all come so far!)
The original Fell Pass from my campaign was a much larger and more empty location than what you find in the module. Given the constraints of the contest, I had to cram my favorite bits close together, so as published it seems overly crowded. Please imagine long galleries of shadow connecting each of the encounters.
Some of my favorite bits: "Poisonous" snakes whose bite acts like a potion. Casrac the Mountain-Splitter, a willful weapon that deliberately seeks strong but stupid wielders. The "Geyser Djinn." The Treadmill.
And, yes, I used to wear sideburns.
For those interested, I found a PDF of that issue here: http://annarchive.com/files/Drmg032.pdf