The Official Acaeum Top 30 adventures of all time
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Post Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2006 9:26 pm 
 

grodog wrote: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?


Alan, go ahead.  I am a bit behind on this, obviously.  I will probably get this done this week though, so if you have it post it soon. :)


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Post Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2006 10:59 pm 
 

Here's my list of favorite D&D modules of all time (not counting stuff published in Dragon or Dungeon, which drops out some strong voting that would gone to Rob Kuntz's Maure Castle dungeon levels and made juggling the list that much more difficult):

  1. G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King by Gary Gygax (D&D; TSR)
  2. WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure by Rob Kuntz (AD&D; TSR)
  3. T1 Village of Hommelet by Gary Gygax (AD&D; TSR)
  4. A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity by David Cook (AD&D; TSR)
  5. Maze of Zayene #4 Eight Kings by Rob Kuntz (AD&D from Creations Unlimited, or d20 from Different Worlds)
  6. WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gary Gygax (AD&D; TSR)
  7. Dark Druids by Rob Kuntz (d20 from Troll Lord Games, and AD&D from Pied Piper Publishing)
  8. D3 Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax (AD&D; TSR)
  9. Starstone by Paul Vernon (OD&D; Northern Sages)
  10. S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax (AD&D; TSR)
  11. Return of the Eight by Roger E. Moore (AD&D 2nd edition; TSR)
  12. Tomb of Abysthor by Clark Peterson and Bill Webb (d20; Necromancer Games)
  13. "Treasures of the Dragon Queen" by Rutgers University Gamers (D&D convention tourney c. 1983; Rutgers University Gamers; details on my site @ http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_tourneys_dragon_queen.html)
  14. Maze of Zayene #1 Prisoners of the Maze by Rob Kuntz (AD&D from Creations Unlimited, or d20 from Necromancer Games)
  15. D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth by Gary Gygax (D&D; TSR)
  16. The Lost Abbey of Calthonwey by Kerry Lloyd (AD&D; Phoenix Games)
  17. Castle Zagyg:  Dark Chateau by Rob Kuntz (d20; Troll Lord Games)
  18. Beastmaker Mountain by Bill Fawcett (AD&D; Mayfai Games)
  19. R1 To the Aid of Falx by Frank Mentzer (AD&D; TSR)
  20. Crucible of Freya by Clark Peterson and Bill Webb (d20; Necromancer Games)


Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • Seren Ironhand by Tom Moldvay (AD&D; Challenges)
  • B1 In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr (D&D; TSR)
  • X2 Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay (D&D; TSR)
  • X4 Master of the Desert Nomads by David Cook (D&D; TSR)
  • X5 Temple of Death by David Cook (D&D; TSR)
  • N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God by Douglas Niles (AD&D; TSR)
  • B4 Lost City by Tom Molvay (D&D; TSR)
  • WG6 Isle of the Ape by Gary Gygax (AD&D; TSR)
  • N5 Under Illefarn by Steve Perrin (AD&D; TSR)
  • Three Days to Kill by John Tynes (d20; Atlas Games)
  • Demons & Devils by Bill Webb and Clark Peterson (d20; Necromancer Games)
  • Caverns of Thracia by Paul Jaquays (OD&D from Judges Guild, or d20 from Judges Guild and Necromancer Games; I've only skimmed this, or it may have ended up in the top 20)
  • The Abduction of Good King Despot by Will and Schar Niebling (AD&D; New Infinities Productions)


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Post Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2006 11:28 pm 
 

At last, here's my list

1) D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
2) Starstone
3) G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief  
4) L2 Assassins Knot
5) UK2 Sentinel
6) City of the Spider Queen (D20 Forgotten Realms)
7) B1 In Search of the Unknown
8) X2 Castle Amber
9) T1 Village of Hommlett
10) I6 Ravenloft
11) Ruins of Undermountain
12) B2  Keep on the Borderlands
13) B3 Palace of the Silver Princess
14) S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
15) G3 Fire Giants
16)  Q1 Demonweb Pits
17)  I3 Pharoah
18) X1 Isle of Dread
19) X4 Master of the Desert Nomads
20) For Duty & Deity

Sorry it's late!
Like any favourites list this is already out of date!
Tough to pick individuals out of the GDQ series - many happy memories
Also a bit of a FR slant (just my personal preference - sorry)

But my favourite adventure ever is Irilian - classic stuff

  


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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:42 pm 
 

I recently jumped in here to help BC with my Create Huge Spreadsheet spell, and — after two run-throughs of the data — I'm ready to say the results are final.

Again, I think this was a great idea for a fun thread; we just get so damn serious around here sometimes. On behalf of BC, thanks to all who took the time to vote (28 voters, BTW, although not everyone filled out all 20 places).

The full top 30 list, along with some details that I found interesting, will follow within the hour. For now, I thought you might want to know that our winner is ...

(drum roll)

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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:55 pm 
 

Thanks Duke. :)   I can say that its not much of a surprise what the winner is.  It had to be either T1 or one of the G modules, just way too many old schoolers around here for it to have been anything else. :wink:


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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:15 pm 
 

Blackmoor wrote:7) C2 Ghost Tower of Invernes
       What the hell is going on here anyway?

10) D3 The Vault of the Drow
       Endless adventure against evil

BTW, no one noticed that our first voter skipped places 8 and 9. :) And that includes me; I would never have spotted it if I hadn't actually been trying to get everything to add up.

For the record, Blackmoor, I just moved all of your other votes up two spots. But I'm curious: which adventures got left off your list? :)

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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:24 pm 
 

Okay, it's Top 30 time!

Some notes:

* Points were scored on an inverse basis of place (i.e., 20 points for a first-place vote and counting down to one point for a 20th-place vote);
* Ties were broken, if possible, by most total votes received;
* Not every voter listed 20 adventures (although most did);
* A total of 131 adventures received at least one vote 8O;
* Every top finisher in the top 30 was a TSR module (I'll add some non-TSR details in a later post).
* Why in the world would anyone ever volunteer to add all this stuff up? :) Well, I'm not working right now (home with the baby), I'm bored out of my mind half of the time, and — this is sort of sad — I actually like this sort of spreadsheet silliness.

Anyway, here's how it all wound up:

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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:18 pm 
 

Had to stop by for a bit to add to a quality classics thread.  Late, of course.  :D

Here's my classic modules list.  If anyone asks you why they should play these old adventures, when things are so much flashier now, here's my reasons.  ;)  I feel these are eternal because they teach lessons that modern adventure writers rarely even comprehend.

#1 B10, Night's Dark Terror.  A cinematic adventure set against a lavish campaign setting, where a sense of wonder supersedes the usual focus on power and treasure.  It elegantly balances a single story against a larger backdrop, strongly encouraging you to use this as the focus of an entire campaign.  Shows the DM what campaign development and lasting locations have to offer.  Also has a nice classic British pulp feel, for those of you who like things like Sorcery!, Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer as sidelines to D&D.

#2 S2, White Plume Mountain.  The dungeon doesn't make any sense.  But it gives an unequaled air of mystery and intrigue.  The map of the mountain's environs is one of the perfect adventure hooks that will leave players yearning to explore "over the edge."  Keraptis' poem is a darker echo of Tolkien's dwarven songs from The Hobbit.  And everyone has to try to answer the question for themselves -- Is Keraptis alive?  S2 is the adventuring spirit, in a single tiny package.

#3 A4, In the Dungeon of the Slave Lords.  What happens when you strip away everything the players rely on?  Either intense creative thinking, or horrible death.  Or both.  Either way, this is the best D&D adventure for challenging the bored and lazy.

#4 B2, Keep on the Borderlands.  Gygax is the master at taking bland monsters (humanoid swarms) and giving them a heart and soul.  The details of living quarters, behavior, tactics, methods of hiding treasure, etc. make the world and the opponents feel real.  If you want the players to care, put them in a world, in conflict with other living, breathing creatures.  A great lesson in dungeon design.

#5 D3, Vault of the Drow.  Some of my most haunting childhood dreams came from descriptions of the Vault crystals, the evil and yet loving succubus and vampire, the dying race discovered and threatened with extinction by young upstarts from the world above, the cruel goddess forcing her believers away from the rise of a new-yet-ancient rival … if I had to describe this one in a single word, it would be Lovecraftian.  D3, while shorthand, reeks of dark atmosphere.

#6 G3, Hall of the Fire Giant King.  The ultimate way to turn a "kill the foozle" quest on its head.  You walk into the dungeon, and one of your very first encounters is with your nemesis.  Then, you find out he's a pawn to an ancient race, and horrible secrets begin to emerge.  Plus the "purple temple" is classic.  This is the guide to the "wheels within wheels" mentality, how to keep a campaign intriguing by offering ever-deeper circles of drama and revelation.

#7 S1, Tomb of Horrors.  Although arbitrary and unfair, this one will cause your players to play harder and more desperately than they ever have before.  The lesson here -- there is always a higher power.  You can become epic, but you can never become unchallenged.  A great look at elaborating on established game mechanics to keep veteran players forever challenged.

#8 T1, The Village of Hommlet.  Everyone focuses on the Moathouse, but the real adventure here is in the village itself.  Gygax's unique merging of medieval accuracy and storytelling flair comes to the front here.  Characters like Jaroo, Burne, Rufus and Gundigoot will last a campaign a lifetime.  It's the companion piece to B2.  First, we made the monsters come to life; now, the NPCs.  Make the players care about a place, give them something to fight for.  Plus, the rural Greyhawk atmosphere is great.  The Welcome Wench drink list is a masterpiece of concise images and adventure hooks.

#9 WG4, Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.  The mystery is intriguing because it has no real answer, even for the DM.  There are secrets in the world so deep that even the Dungeon Master will never fully fathom them.  But best of all, this is a masterpiece of evil, coordinated monster tactics.  This is how smart monsters fight.  They don't sit in rooms and wait to be robbed.  Read and play this one before the G series, then apply what you learn there (especially to the G1 hall and G3 in its entirety).

#10 X4, Master of the Desert Nomads.  A surprisingly compelling desert adventure.  It plays much better than it reads.  Interesting encounters like the bandit raid, the sinister monastery (Should we fight? Stay? Leave?), and many others give this one a fascinating feel.  But only #10, because this one requires a skilled DM to come to life.

#11 N1, Against the Cult of the Reptile God.  Remixes the classic dungeon crawl, giving a wonderful sense of danger, while keeping things relatively tame.  It's a great example of how to make lower-level characters feel important.  The end device, of an overpowered monster being evened out by protective magic, gives a nice sense of accomplishment.  The town isn't nearly as compelling as Hommlet, however, so it's #11.

#12 A1, Slave Pits of the Undercity.  A great example of the competitive dungeon crawl in its prime.  Split your group in two, and have them run the adventure separately, and let them know they will be scored.  This one will give your players a nice dose of tactical encounters, and teach them to expect the unexpected.

#13 B7, Rahasia.  Another nice example of getting low-level characters to care about their environment and its inhabitants.  Also a fairly good story.  It's basically a primitive but revolutionary prototype, showing the promise that B10 later delivered on.  Takes adventuring in directions Gygax probably did not envision.

#14 Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits.  Although disliked for its uneven tone, this one is striking because it takes so many chances.  Infinite worlds, the first in-depth exploration of outer planes, the steampunk ship (long before the genre became mainstream), the endless hooks for future games … it's a very bold, if flawed, package.  The DMG and early D&D focused on anachronism (starships, wild west, Gamma World, Blackmoor futuretech, etc.), so this one's reputation as "not really fitting" is quite unfair.

#15 D2, Shrine of the Kuo-Toa.  Purely for the atmosphere of the dead society fighting against impossible odds, the description of the temple, and the beautiful architecture of the master map.  Vastly down-ranked, however, for repetitive and boring encounters that are crying out for a DM's hand.  Take what you learn from S2, WG4 and B2 and apply it here to create a masterpiece.

#16 EX1, Dungeonland.  Probably the most unpopular of the Gygaxian adventures; I admire it because I'm an Alice and Carroll devotee.  If you study Victorian literature and lifestyle at all, you have to nod in admiration at some of the "extensions" Gygax made to Wonderland.  The humor, however, is trite and contrived and never really works.  This is an example of how to create a wonderful tribute to an existing work, and also the pitfalls in the procedure.  If you're thinking of adapting a classic novel and making an adventure out of it, read this.  (EX2, although not as well-designed, is worth a nod.)

#17 G2, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.  A great example of the thematic and outdoor dungeon.  Repetitive encounters, but lots of great traps and details.  This one needs a lot of fleshing out, and begs to be expanded to 32 pages.  But it's a perfect example of the "do it yourself" module.  The basics are there, teasing you, daring you to make them come to life.  (In a similar vein, a nod to the sample dungeon in the DMG.)

#18 I2, Tomb of the Lizard King.  A surprisingly strong dungeon crawl, with a memorable foe.  This module, to me, marks the beginning of "classic nostalgia."  It has all of the elements, but the Gygaxian feel and underlying knowledge of the medieval age are missing.

#19 B1, In Search of the Unknown.  A wonderful setting -- an attempt to make the illogical dungeon make sense, with the now-contrived "mad wizard" plot hook.  On the list because it not only encourages the DM to develop it, it shows them how.  Placing monsters and treasure leads to the deeper questions that drive future adventures and eventually campaigns.  (How did this get here?  When?  Why?)  The pool room and mushroom garden are great archetypes of mystery and exploration (hence the title).  Plus, who can look at the map of the first level and not get an undeniable urge to go dungeon delving with freshly-rolled level ones?

#20 L1, The Secret of Bone Hill.  A great extension of T1, in that it shows how to link towns, wilderness and dungeons together into a cohesive whole.  Could have used more plot (that came in the under-rated L2), but it's a great template to work from.

  


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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 6:57 pm 
 

Hey Duke---

Instead of using a reverse-selection scale (1st choice = 20, 2nd choice = 19, etc.), what would happen to the selections if you used a much broader points set, to really weight the #1-3's more than the #4-6s?  Something like this:

- 1st place = 160 points
- 2nd place = 80 points
- 3rd place = 40 points
- 4th place = 20 points
- 5th place = 10 points
- 6th place = 5 points
- 7th place = 2 points
- 8th through 20th place = 1 point

Just curious.  This kind of scale would disaggregate the results a lot more, and make people's top selections much more important than their 7th, for example.  

I also find it interesting that not a single non-TSR product was able to break into the top 30....

Thoughts? :D


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Post Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 7:04 pm 
 

grodog wrote:Hey Duke---

Instead of using a reverse-selection scale (1st choice = 20, 2nd choice = 19, etc.), what would happen to the selections if you used a much broader points set, to really weight the #1-3's more than the #4-6s?  Something like this:

- 1st place = 160 points
- 2nd place = 80 points
- 3rd place = 40 points
- 4th place = 20 points
- 5th place = 10 points
- 6th place = 5 points
- 7th place = 2 points
- 8th through 20th place = 1 point

Just curious.  This kind of scale would disaggregate the results a lot more, and make people's top selections much more important than their 7th, for example.  

Thoughts? :D

Uh ... no idea. :)

I'd be happy to give it a shot and post the results (it should be just a matter of changing the formula, which is no biggie). But I'm just the sorcerer's apprentice here: the initial idea and the scoring method were from BC.

I'll run the numbers again and post the results in a couple of days; I'd like to give anyone who wants to some time to respond to this first set of results.

(Here's a guess, though: the top five would stay the same ... maybe with some minor shuffling).

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:51 am 
 

Looking at the list, I was surprised to see that:

:arrow:  No I3 or I5;
:arrow:  That Q1 and A4--for that matter, all of the A series--finished as far down as they did;
:arrow:  And the same for T1-4;
:arrow:  As has been pointed out, not one non-TSR product--heck,
     not even one of the Dungeon Crawl Classics made top-30;
:arrow:  And . . . no Blackmoor, DA's, or even one of the Dragonlance/DL's made top-30
    (the last since I6 Ravenloft did make the list; it ended up starting a whole new campaign "world").

  

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:14 pm 
 

One thing about Q1 . . . I played it once and ran it once.  Neither time did anyone have characters that were high enough level to go through it, so they were just "pick-up" games with pre-generated characters.  And . . . well, when they are not your character, it's is difficult to care quite as much about the adventure.


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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:30 pm 
 

sleepyCO wrote:Looking at the list, I was surprised to see that:

:arrow:  No I3 or I5;
:arrow:  That Q1 and A4--for that matter, all of the A series--finished as far down as they did;
:arrow:  And the same for T1-4;
:arrow:  As has been pointed out, not one non-TSR product--heck,
     not even one of the Dungeon Crawl Classics made top-30;
:arrow:  And . . . no Blackmoor, DA's, or even one of the Dragonlance/DL's made top-30
    (the last since I6 Ravenloft did make the list; it ended up starting a whole new campaign "world").


I guess I for one wasnt surprised at all with these findings.  I didnt like any of the 'Desert of Desolation' modules particularly much.  As BtB said, Q1 is not an easy module to run and most players probably either died or never finished it (my party never got that far).  Most people probably haven't played many of the Dungeon Crawl Classics so it doesnt surprise me that none made the list.  Dragonlance?  I think you will find most people here like the novels but despise the modules.

  

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:15 pm 
 

Really enjoyed reading darkseraphim's comments on his favorites... now only if he'd stick around a bit longer...  :wink:

I guess it makes sense that the low level modules finished highest since they're the most accessible to play.  I was surprised that A4 finished as low as it did, even lower than A1.  A4 is the only module I know of that forces players to think of their characters as not being just the sum of their equipment and magic items.  It also has a great climatic ending with the slavers' island being subsumed by a volcano as the players hopefully get away on a boat.

  


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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 2:28 pm 
 

A couple of quick comments:

1. Not a single Dragonlance adventure received a single vote that I can remember;

2. A number of DCC's did receive votes, but no single entry in the series garnered enough support to break into the top 30. The support for the DCC series was too spread out, in other words.

3. I3, I4, and I5 got pummeled and finished well down the list. I was sort of surprised by this, too.

4. I thought it was a nice piece of symmetry that the very top and very bottom of our top 30 were T1 and T1-4.

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 5:14 pm 
 

Some more follow-up:

1. JG's Dark Tower almost cracked the top 30, finishing in a tie for 31st place. It was the top non-TSR finisher.

2. Three DCCs received at least a single vote, making it (by far) the most popular 3e line of products.

3. Of the 131 adventures to receive at least one vote, 66 received exactly one vote. As a guess, I'd say a lot of us just tossed in a couple of our off-beat favorites, knowing full well they had no chance of ever cracking any "top" list ever created.

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 9:40 pm 
 

The list is pretty much what you'd expect from a group of primarily long-time 1E players.  

All of the monos made the list.  Everything on the list (not including B10, I don't know on that one) is copyright 1985 or earlier.  T1-4 is the second-newest module.  The average of the top ten is about 1979. 8O

I'd hoped to see something strange make the list, such as a WG5/6/7, an R-series, or a non-TSR module.  I'm a little surprised nothing from the UK-series made the cut.

One thing I always find a bit disappointing is the over-emphasis on G1/G2/G3/D1/D2/D3/Q1.  Yes, they're wonderful, but I prefer to use G1-2-3, D1-2, D3, Q1 in order to limit that series to four selections rather than seven.

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Post Posted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 10:34 pm 
 

darkseraphim wrote:#16 EX1, Dungeonland.  Probably the most unpopular of the Gygaxian adventures; I admire it because I'm an Alice and Carroll devotee.  If you study Victorian literature and lifestyle at all, you have to nod in admiration at some of the "extensions" Gygax made to Wonderland.  The humor, however, is trite and contrived and never really works.  This is an example of how to create a wonderful tribute to an existing work, and also the pitfalls in the procedure.  If you're thinking of adapting a classic novel and making an adventure out of it, read this.  (EX2, although not as well-designed, is worth a nod.)


I wrestled a lot with whether to include these two in my list or not, and in the end left them off.  I like them a lot, though, and am glad to see that they got some representation in the voting :D  Like X4, these play better than they read, but I think your point about being a Carroll fan is the big reason that these didn't rank in the end:  they're just a little too out there, broader in their definition of "fantasy" than many find comfortable, and the humor side doesn't often appeal to those who take their D&D seriously (alas :D ).


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