The Official Acaeum Top 30 adventures of all time
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Post Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:27 am 
 

bclarkie wrote:Okay, the Dungeon Magazine 30 greatest adventures of all time thread got me thinking. Let's compile our own Official Acaeum version of the Top 30 adventures of all time.  I know that we picked our Top 10 adventure awhile back, but lets make this official like.  There only 3 rules to this list:

    1) Everyone gets to pick his/her own Top 20 modules. Anymore than twenty will not be counted.

:D


I will raise an objection I pointed out when Dungeon Magazine did theirs. If you build a top 30 list from a group of top 10 lists you are going to get skewed results beyond the first 10 entries. I think that really showed in Dungeon Magazine's list, I don't trust any of the entries beyond 10.

The same applies to building a top 30 list from a group of top 20 lists, but to a much lesser extent.

1) M5 Talons of Night -
I see Dead Gods show up in a lot of favorite adventure lists, and I like it as well. But most people don't know Monte Cook borrowed some of the good stuff in Dead Gods from Talons of Night, which is my #1. Monte did improve on it, but the reason Dead Gods is not in this slot is because there is not one but two adventures in the book. Everyone forgets about the second adventure, because it stinks.  Judging the whole book means Dead Gods does not make my top 20.

2) B10 Night's Dark Terror -
A nasty slave ring, an ambush on the river, a desperate defense of a fort against waves of humanoid attackers, all of that is just the introduction to the actual adventure. Before it is over, a mystery of an ancient race is revealed, as well as numerous locales to explore, a crafty nemesis, two treacherous factions, and a Cthulhoid monster. The only detraction is there are too many side quests to explore, and letting the players hit them all will detract from the urgency, which is why I recommend cutting a few out, even though each one reveals a tiny slice of the mystery.

3) U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh --
Out of all the adventures to kick off a campaign, this one is my favorite. As someone else has already pointed out, a lot of ideas from the movie Goonies. When I ran this I even took it one step further, it was an all-halfling adventure party running through that place, with the exception of a human bard. It works best if you can come up with a reason it has never been explored before, any hints that it may have been explored might give the players the idea to start searching for secret doors in the basement right off the bat, like mine did.

4) CM9 Legacy of Blood --
A domain that is on the brink of rebellion, a powerful cabal is out to undermine your every move, and it is up to you to take the steps necessary to root out the conspiracy and cement your rulership. The cabal has some well-described villains with varying motivations, and the setting has some unique locations and features. Open for further customizing from the Gazeteer series.

5) I6 Ravenloft --
Along with a classic NPC villain and the castle that launched a campaign setting, you also get several possibilities in terms of the actual goal for the adventure. Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?

6) L1 The Secret of Bone Hill --
If I want to kick off a new campaign series of adventures, I go with this one. The town has its denizens and their quirks, the surrounding countryside has a set of challenges, a few possible henchmen are described, and the final challenge of Bone Hill is described with two sets of denizens for both day and night, which tends to throw off parties that like to make some probing attacks before coming up with a plan to wait until dark. I always change the clerics outside of town, which strikes me as too odd. The last time I placed this, the location was good for a group of low-level Shaolin monks.

7) X1 Isle of Dread --
It rips off plenty of ideas from King Kong and other sources, but it is one of the original classics. Those encounter descriptions still give me further ideas, and there is plenty of additional room to expand. This also first introduced the rakasta and phanatons, two of my favorite D&D races.

8) B4 The Lost City --
At first glance it is just a five level dungeon. But the players get their without food and water, and will die unless they acquire some. This means possibly allying with one or more NPC factions, which of course all conflict with each other, and may force the players to betray one or more of the factions. On top of this, five more dungeon levels are outlined, and then an entire underground city with plenty of adventuring opportunity is tacked on almost as an appendix. There is just so much to work with here, enough to get the creative juices flowing and keep the players busy trying to save an ancient culture on the brink of oblivion.

9) Return to the Tomb of Horrors --
This one is a PC killer, but gives a daunting epic quest that will be remembered by anyone who plays it..and lives…at least for awhile. This is a bit of a cheat since S1 is incorporated verbatim into this box set, but it really does improve on what is there. Only downside is if you like the idea of a powerful demi-lich with unknowable motivations. Here the motivation is provided, and while it is good, you might have come up with something else.

10) X2 Castle Amber --
Clark Ashton Smith incorporated into D&D. The d'Ambreville family strongly resembles another Amber family. Mix the two and you have something very cool with a lot of potential. The adventure locations do get wacky, but I consider that part of the charm. The mist in this adventure is the inspiration for the Mists of Ravenloft.

11) CM1 Test of the Warlords --
Carve your fiefdom out of the wilderness, and help a weak king keep his claim to the land. Very free-form and open, with suggested encounters and situations to crop up over the course of a couple of years of campaign time. My favorites are the massive frost giant armies and the wedding. It all culminates in large scale land war against an empire, which of course, planted its own agents in the kingdom from the start.

12) DDA2 Legions of Thyatis --
Many adventures claim flexibility, this one practices it. It really needs to be played with DDA1(also very flexible and free-form). High drama for low-level characters, with a logical dungeon crawl mixed into the middle. Defeating the bad guy is not done in a fight, but at a trial, with roles for the judges and prosecutor that can be played by the players or by anyone willing to join for an evening session. And I love the big NPC bad is a normal human with 3hp.

13) X4 Master of the Desert Nomads --
This one was my first adventure with an epic quest. Cross a forbidding desert occupied by enemy armies to confront whoever is sending them. The cross-country travel and the well-described encounters bring this one to life. Its sequel X5 is almost as good, but the country of the enemy too sparsely detailed.

14) T1 Village of Hommlet --
The best of the starting adventures from a more generic perspective. I consider this to be another great adventure to start a campaign. I avoid the Temple of Elemental Evil like the plague though.

15) DA2 Temple of the Frog --
How can you not like a D&D adventure with frickin laser beams?! I like the original from the Blackmoor book, but this gives me something meaty to run with my players. Definitely needs the fixes suggested by Arneson and others, namely that the hand held pistols create a fireball only human-sized, otherwise some opponents cannot fire their guns without hitting themselves. You think you are invading some swamp cult on a commando rescue mission, but then you find that the swamp cult has frickin laser beams. Typical PC response, "Why didn't anyone tell me they had...one of those things?"

16) M1 Into the Maelstrom --
Replay the Odyssey. Bring your own naval armada. If you really want to, conquer a couple of worlds while you are at it. Or ally with them. Your choice.

17) X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield --
I like my wargames, including the original 15mm Battlesystem. Which to this day is still the only miniatures/tactical game I find suitable to cover everything D&D does on the battlefield. Which is why I enjoy this module. The H series is good as well, but I never understood why it was considered too risky to send your army across a river to fight the Witchking, but it would be less risky to march into the Abyss itself and attack Orcus.

18) L2 Assassin's Knot --
I like murder mysteries, I like thieves guilds, and I like assassins. This has all three, and builds on the foundation of L1. The only thing I might suggest changing today is to get rid of the red herring clues…these days savvy players will assume they are bogus and start looking elsewhere.

19) Dark Sun Dragons Crown --
Most Dark Sun adventures were terrible, more time was spent on the art then the story, and most of the time the players sat around and watched NPCs do the important work. Not in this one. This adventure covers the length and breadth of the Dark Sun campaign setting, and puts all the responsibility on the player characters. A rival group of NPCs dogs their steps, and it features a very real threat from the most powerful psionicists on the planet.

20) O2 Blade of Vengeance -
We need more one-on-one modules, we don't all have the luxury of a group, and this one shows how to do it right. An epic quest, emotional connections for the player to bond with the character, unique settings and rich detail, even down to the white dragonskin scabbard.

Honorable Mentions-
A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade
The Rod of Seven Parts Box set
B7 Rahasia
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
DDA1 Arena of Thyatis
UK2 Sentinel
UK3 Gauntlet
Night Below box set
3E D&D Crucible of Freya
H1 Bloodstone Pass

  

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Post Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:17 am 
 

Badmike wrote:1.        T1 Village of Hommlet
2.        B1 In Search of the Unknown
3.        L1 Bone Hill
4.        Ruins of Undermountain
5.        G3 Fire Giants
6.        D1 Descent Into the Depths
7.        S1 Tomb of Horrors
8.        WG4 Tharizdun
9.        I1 Forgotten City
10.        U1 Secret of Saltmarsh
11.        N1 Cult of the Reptile God
12.        B2 Keep on the Borderlands
13.        B10 Night's Dark Terror
14.        WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure
15.        D3 Vault of the Drow
16.        A4 Dungeons of the Slave Lords
17.        Night Below
18.        WGR6 City of Skulls
19.        G1
20.        G2

I have explanations for all of these, but I am dead tired and can't go into them...have to wait for a later post!

Mike B.


Finally have time to do my reviews of why they are in my top modules:

1.  T1 Village of Hommlet

This is the quintessential AD&D adventure module, and is firmly in the collective conciousness of almost everyone who played from 1980 on.  If you mention Elmo, Lareth, Moathouse, Inn of the Welcome Wench, Gremag & Rannos Duval, Burne & Rufus, etc you get knowing nods and smiles. It is perhaps the perfect introductory adventure: you have a fully stocked village, a Inn, a trading post to buy and sell with, a temple/church, and tons of secrets, intrigue and opportunities for investigation.   A short walk down the road is the Moathouse, with the perfect mix of surprises, danger and bad guys.  In the end, who really needed T2-4 anyway?  Lots of room for developement.  Plus, great maps!

2.  In Search of the Unknown

I've run this more time than any other module.  It's a great introductory adventure for NOVICE players that have never played before; it's got all the bells and whistles that are so essential to dungeon adventuring.  Perhaps the only squabble is that you have to place your own town/village from the party to base from (or put it down the road from Hommlet like I did in the day!!!).  Lots of interesting bits that aren't fatal (the Room of Pools, Pit trap that dumps you into the lower level), and you get to place the monsters and treasures yourself so you can gauge them to the party's abilities.  Also like the little sections on how to run the adventure for novice DMs/players.


3.  L1 Bone Hill


Kind of a pumped up version of T1, with a small town instead of a village, a larger wilderness area, and a really cool ruin to explore with some unusual monsters (I can't believe more wasn't done with Skeltars and Zombires, which are very cool).  Lots of potential for politics and intrigue with the castle denizens and Restenford, lots of mini-quests and adventures.  I've used this three times to begin campaigns, it has been well loved by all my players.

4. Ruins of Undermountain

In his own way, Ed Greenwood is a genius in the Gary Gygax mold of world/setting building.  Some of objected to the fact that not every room is filled in, but we all found out what an incredible bore that would have been when the World's Largest Dungeon was released. Instead, Greenwood gives us a gigantic book full of info about the largest dungeon in the Forgotten Realms, and maps out the first three levels while leaving the other levels to our imaginations.  Lots of great encounters and vignettes, lots of room to develop your own ideas, lots of fun for those players that enjoy lovingly drawing out their own maps...!  Lots of goodies including another booklet full of adventures, cardstock traps and treasures, some new monsters.  Although it works best under the City of Waterdeep, due to the nature of the dungeon (all underground) it can easily be moved to any location.  Probably more bang to the buck than any item ever released for D&D.  I've told this story many times, but using just this, Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, and FR1 Waterdeep and the North I ran a three year long campaign involving many players and dozens of characters...who only left the city TWICE during the entire campaign.

5.  G3 Fire Giants

The best of the Giant series, with nastier foes, tricky traps, and don't forget this is the module with the very first appearance of those lovable foes, the Drow.  Anyone who ran this BITD remembers the shocking effect the dark elves had on the adventurers as they frantically paged through the Monster Manual to no avail, and with spells bouncing off the Drow right and left they were whining "Who ARE these guys?"   A very satisfying wrap up to the trilogy, and it set a standard that was very infrequently reached in subsequent TSR  productions.

6.  D1 Descent Into the Depths

And then that led into the first great underdark adventure, Descent into the Depths.  Loved the gigantic map of the Underdark, waiting to be filled in, and of course the cavern with the armies of Bugbears, Trogs and Trolls, and don't forget the Drow caravans, Asberdies, Mind Flayers, and more.  I would have to say that the gigantic battle that typically erupted in the cavern was one of the funnest tactical battles in all of D&D!

7.  S1 Tomb of Horrors

The first killer dungeon.  While Return is epic in scope it does reduce this adventure to the status of an introduction, which is unforgiveable.  BITD, EVERYONE who played AD&D knew this was the place where foolhardy higher level parties went to be destroyed....

8.  WG4 Tharizdun

One of my personal favorites, it's really three adventures in one. First,     there is the wilderness trek to get to the temple, with tons of nice little mini-quests and lairs to explore.  Second, there is the temple itself, with the humaniod troops that are given excellent tactics which should be able to bring even higher level parties pause.  Third, there is the creepy lower level with the imprisoned god (?) that is one of the moodiest, spooky pieces ever inserted in a AD&D adventure.  I've run this numerous times and it's always been loved.

9.  I1 Forgotten City

A nice change of pace adventure in a very underused locale (jungle).  Lots of multiple entrances and lairs so the adventure never plays out the same way twice.  An entire ruined city for the DM to develop if he wishes, some good monsters and foes (Yuan Ti, Oriental Dragon, Horan the Necromancer, Bullywugs).  I loved this adventure and ran it multiple times, so much so that I rewrote it for 2nd edition.  One ofthe few modules with some good suggestions at the end for continuing the explorations.

10.  U1 Secret of Saltmarsh

Nothing much to add to those who have commented on this already; just a great lower level adventure into a haunted house.

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:59 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
Finally have time to do my reviews of why they are in my top modules:



3.  L1 Bone Hill


Kind of a pumped up version of T1, with a small town instead of a village, a larger wilderness area, and a really cool ruin to explore with some unusual monsters (I can't believe more wasn't done with Skeltars and Zombires, which are very cool).  

Mike B.

I couldn't agree more.

There is one 2E update to this that I know. Skelters and zombires appear in Dungeon Magazine #59, adapted for the Birthright campaign setting. Each one that appears has a history and personality, as the campaign setting identifies those with divine bloodlines can beome these creatures in undeath.

If we build a list of top Dungeon Magazine/general magazine D&D adventures, this one will be in my top 10.

  


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Post Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 10:25 pm 
 

If it isn't too late, here's my top 20:

(1)   T1 The Village of Hommlet*
(2)   B2 Keep on the Borderlands
(3)   Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits
(4)   DA3 City of the Gods**
(5)   DCC13 Crypt of the Devil Lich  :arrow:
(6)   RA3 Rappan Athuk:  The Lower Levels***
(7)   C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
[8]   C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
(9)   A4 In the Dungeon of the Slavelords
(10) EX1 Dungeonland
(11) WG7 Castle Greyhawk****
(12) X2 Castle Amber/Chateau D'Amberville
(13) U2 Danger at Dunwater
(14) U3 The Final Emeny
(15) WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure
(16) S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks**
(17) D3 Vault of the Drow
[18] N5 Under Illefarn
(19) D3 Vault of the Drow
(20) G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King.

Notes:
*T1 The Village of Hommlet was one of the first modules I ever bought . . . and one of the few I saved from my sister :twisted: !!

** DA3 City of the Gods and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks were ones that dealt with alien/advanced technology and that interested me then and now.  [I STILL wonder what that alien ship in the Barrier Peaks looks like now after 30 years . . . ].

***RA3 Rappan Athuk:  The Lower Levels fascinated me when I finally got and read it--supposedly, NO ONE has gotten down to the last two or three levels ever . . . and now, the makers brought out an all-new edition with  8O NINE MORE LEVELS!!!! 8O !!!
By the way, I code these as RA3 to separate them from the TSR R-series.

****WG7 Castle Greyhawk.  OK. I hear groans out there!  However, as I was reading this, it took me back in time to the 1970's and '80s--that is, when I wasn't laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.
Besides, how could you go wrong when you find your namesake in the module:  There is a ghost named Melvin in the module, but it is in the sewers of the castle guarding . . . nothing.  (They couldn't come up with SOMETHING better?  Where's those @%$#% d% dice--I'l  roll 00 and get divine retribution on them!!! :D ).

:arrow: Dungeon Crawl Classics #13--my coding, DCC13 Crypt of the Devil Lich--was the first of the DCC's I picked up; they do remind me of the 1e modules in a 3.5e format.  (Now to convince the company to do the rest as 1e format......).

  


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Post Posted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:13 pm 
 

I'm limiting this to modules actually played or DM'd:

1) B2 Keep on the Borderlands
2) U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
3) S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
4) I2 Tomb of the Lizard King
5) N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God
6) X1 Isle of Dread
7) S1 Tomb of Horrors
8) Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits
9) I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City
10) C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
11) S2 White Plume Mountain
12) X2 Castle Amber
13) S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
14) L2 Assassin's Knot
15) C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
16) A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
17) B4 Lost City
18) N2 Forest Oracle
19) C3 Lost Island of Castanamir
20) B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (green)

I'll annotate at a later date.

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Post Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:46 pm 
 

BC, you got that spreadsheet fired up? :wink:

What's your cut-off, I'm wondering? I think you can probably motivate some latecomers if you give them an ultimatum or two. :)

Fun thread, BTW. I'm glad to see we're all still capable of stepping back from the "it must be mine" mindset that has been creeping in to this board.

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Post Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 5:03 pm 
 

The Collector's Trove wrote:In older modules, handouts were placed in the middle so they could be removed at the staples or at the end where they could be detached along a perforation. That sort of behavior would be considered insane by 90% of companies making modules today. The booklet of the module itself was seperated from the outer folder and was saddlestitched - that means you can lay it flat! Whysoever would you want your module to lay flat and stay open to the right page? Todays companies would say, "Perfect bound copies or hardcovers are a better format because you can see the title on the spine. Who cares if you can't lay it flat?


I think the big difference is that TSR was run by gamers, and WotC is run by businesspeople. That also explains my biggest beef with modern gaming materials, which is that they're so glitzy, slick and graphics-intensive that the cost get jacked up exponentially. $40 for a single book? Gimme a break!

Scott

  


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Post Posted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:52 pm 
 

Xaxaxe wrote:BC, you got that spreadsheet fired up? :wink:

What's your cut-off, I'm wondering? I think you can probably motivate some latecomers if you give them an ultimatum or two. :)

Fun thread, BTW. I'm glad to see we're all still capable of stepping back from the "it must be mine" mindset that has been creeping in to this board.


I am going to give it until the end of the day Sunday.  I will start my comilation first thing Monday morning.  So if anyone who has not participated still wants to, Please make sure that you get your list into this thread by the end of the day Sunday.


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:37 pm 
 

Limiting myself to modules I still recall and either DM'ed or played in as a player:


1)   Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
2)   Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
3)   Hall of the Fire Giant King
4)   Vault of the Drow
5)   Village of Hommlet
6)   White Plume Mountain
7)   Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
8)   Keep on the Borderlands
9)   Descent Into the Depths
10) Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
11)  Ravenloft
12)  In Search of the Unknown
13)  Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
14)  Isle of Dread
15)  Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

That is the end of my list.  I do not have a rating for any of the Slavelords modules, and I did not play any of the Dragonlance modules.  If I could, I would vote seven times for each of the G series modules.

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Post Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:49 pm 
 

Here's my ballot stuffing right under the deadline gun:

1) A4 In the Dungeons of the Slavelords
2) A3 Aerie of the Slavelords
3) A2 Secret of the Slaver's Stockade
4) A1 Slavepits of the Undercity
5) G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
6) G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King
7) G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
8: B7 Rahasia
9) D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
10) D2 Shrine of Kuo-toa
11) L1 Secret of Bone Hill
12) B4 The Lost City
13) U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
14) JG Dark Tower
15) B1 In Search of the Unknown
16) R1 To the Aid of Falx
17) X2 Castle Amber
18: WG6 Isle of the Ape
19) S1 Tomb of Horrors
20) L2 The Assassin's Knot

  

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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:24 am 
 

1.) A4 In the dungeon of the Slave lords
2.) S1 Tomb of Horrors
3.) T1 Village of Hommlet
4.) D&D Supplement II: Temple of the Frog
5.) B4 Lost City
6.) A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade
7.) S2 White Plume Mountain
8.) S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojconth
9.) A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
10.) A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:44 am 
 

Keith wrote:

4.) D&D Supplement II: Temple of the Frog


I do have the DA2 Temple of the Frog, but not the D&D Supplement II version -- what are some of the differences, and where could I find a copy?

  


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:56 am 
 

sleepyCO wrote:Keith wrote:



I do have the DA2 Temple of the Frog, but not the D&D Supplement II version -- what are some of the differences, and where could I find a copy?


Hey sleepy - this is one item where there is a free, legal pdf available for download, courtesy of Dave Arneson. Try here:

http://www.jovianclouds.com/blackmoor/bmc.html

Click on the picture of the supplement for download.

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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 1:11 pm 
 

Zhower,

Thanks for posting that link!

Sleepy,
My copy of DA2 disappeared years ago, and I cannot remember the differences off hand.

I had dropped the Supp II version of "Frog" into my 1e AD&D setting, and it did require some modifications.

It's a sentimental favorite.  It's also always reminded me of "Shadows over Innsmouth" by Lovecraft.


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 2:12 pm 
 

Thanks for the link, Zhowar.

Like so many pages of its type, it has not been touched or updated by the creators since 2001.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 2:26 pm 
 

zhowar wrote:
Hey sleepy - this is one item where there is a free, legal pdf available for download, courtesy of Dave Arneson. Try here:

http://www.jovianclouds.com/blackmoor/bmc.html

Click on the picture of the supplement for download.


Thanks Zhowar!  :D

  


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Post Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 6:34 pm 
 

You are all welcome! I would've posted that link earlier but I assumed everyone around here already knew about it. But I note that it's not on the Acaeum Reference/Downloads page. That page does have an original Blackmoor town map, which you could use with the Temple of the Frog:

http://www.acaeum.com/library/blackmoor.html

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Joined: Nov 16, 2002
Last Visit: Dec 07, 2021
Location: Wichita, KS, USA

Post Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2006 6:54 pm 
 

Hey Brian---

I've finally got a little time to finish my long-saved Top 30 post; are you still tabulating or has the deadline passed beyond getting some more data?


Allan Grohe ([email protected])
Greyhawk, grodog Style

Editor and Project Manager, Black Blade Publishing
https://www.facebook.com/BlackBladePublishing/

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