Monday, May 21, 2012

Monty Hall Was Here

Dave Hargrave's Arduin Dungeon adventures read like how-to guides on how not to design modules. 

Arduin Adventure No. 2, "The Howling Tower", is chapter two in that how-to guide.

"The Howling Tower" is an adventure for character levels 1-4.

The Howling Tower adventure consists of three dungeon levels and a tower, from which emanate blood-curdling howls from dusk 'til dawn.

Don't forget your earplugs.

If the illustration above seems passingly familiar, it's only because Dave Hargrave "drew inspiration" from many sources, including Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.  This fellow looks to be a cross between a Stormtrooper and Cylon.

Arduin was the first multi-genre role-playing game, with Science Fiction and Fantasy co-existing in more or less equal measure.

Erol Otus and Greg Espinoza are the illustrators of The Howling Tower.  Below is the front cover, showing the dungeon entrance to the adventure, with the Howling Tower itself behind and to the left.

The back cover, by Erol Otus, shows an idol and fiery brazier.  Does this not seem faintly reminiscent of the cover of the ADnD Players Handbook?

Here is the map for the tower levels of The Howling Tower.  With only six levels, it seems rather stout, compared to the illustration on the front cover.

And here we have more treasure cards.  Again, if i'm not mistaken, all of these were illustrated by Greg Espinoza.
Stormtrooper Gear, Dragons Orb, Elder Sword, Spartakkons Gear
Heiro's Headband, Heaven Harp, Devouring Shield, Whirling Death
I mentioned earlier that The Howling Tower adventure is rated for 1st to 4th level characters.  Given that rating, there really is no excuse, other than pure monty-hallism, for some of the magic items, above.

Take the Elder Sword.  It is a +4 sword, that drains 1-3 life levels from an opponent as a result of a successful strike.  Or the Devouring Shield: it provides the wielder with an additional shield attack, which, if successful, results in one's opponent being completely devoured within 1-3 rounds.

Hiero's Headband is worth 10,000 gp, and provides the wearier with permanent True Sight, and +6 on all saves versus psychic attack.

Gonzo to be sure, but also seriously overpowered, for a introductory adventure.

Battlebones, Gameron, Skullmonculuous, Triclops
Braineater, Hellhorse, Battlespider, Priestmage of Cthulhulos

Dave Hargrave always had the best monsters.  These would be right at home in the Fiend Folio.


biopunk said...

Sci-fi in the Sword & Sorcery?

Deal breaker.

That Erol Otus statue, roasting it's nuts, is pretty funny though.

Aaron E. Steele said...

I don't much go for mixing peanut butter with chocolate, but there is a tradition of just that in early S&S role-playing.

By tradition, one can look all the way back to the "Nazis and Necromancers" article, appearing in the December 1975 Strategic Review (precursor to Dragon Magazine), to see cross-genre gaming making inroads into rpgs.

The Arduin artwork certainly has a primitive edge to it.

DrBargle said...


Is the adventure deadly, though? I mean, does it give the PCs +4 swords and then puts level 1 character up against overpowered monsters to balance it all out? The players get the Monty Haul high without losing the Old School precariarity.

I can see how that would work, not for a long campaign, but for two or three adventures (or longer, if the dungeons properly muched up adventuring parties and everyone enjoyed the mayhem).

Aaron E. Steele said...

I'm no expert, but I seem to recall there were two completing visions of DnD back in the day, one was the more reserved, level appropriate gaming represented by, say Len Lakofka, and the more gonzo, monty hall/killer DM school of someone like Jim Ward.

Aplus said...

I wish Monty Haulism didn't get such a bad rap. It's a perfectly legitimate form of fun, and lets face it, even even your shield has a chance to eat dudes, you still have 4 hit points or whatever, so you better not get too brave!

Also, I'm not sure about these particular items, but in general Dave Hargrave was pretty good at limiting the use of items in different ways, such as making them situational, limited use (charges), having drawbacks, and so on.

P.S. - It's funny that you mention Jim Ward, as it was playing with him last summer that had a lot of influence on my opinions on the matter.

Aaron E. Steele said...

I think Jim would agree with you.

If all of the players at the table want to play the game a certain way, they are completely within their rights to do so, whether it be monty hall, munchkin or something else.

Neither are my thing, as I prefer a more simulationist game, but to each his own.

iron said...

I 've heard over the years Hargrave himself was not very happy with his published dungeons and very much wanted to go back and redo them. But of all the Arduin Dungeons published, the Howling Tower really had the most potential. Some of the basic changes to making it a better adventure is to dump out the fancy room descriptions. lessen the treasure, add a few more monsters and make the the stairs to the tower much harder to find. Even Tower itself had some really neat locations and both the guy wearing the techno armor and the other with the man eating shield( neither of which wouldn't be out of place in the Warhammer universe) are not just some random monsters but
the arch wizard's bodyguards. Like I said, there's a lot of potential with this dungeon, so long as the GM actually wanted to put the time and make it better.