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Post Posted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 5:38 pm 
 

Ekim Toor wrote:
And the U series deals with "smugglers"?... for the first half anyways.

No one has mentioned the Doppleganger in A1, talk about an evening of good old-fashioned paranoia, even better than Ned in U1.


The A-series is probably one of the weaker "classic" series, if not the weakest.  It's nostalgic appeal is a product of the times it was released...if the first five Dungeon Crawl Classics were released 25 years ago, we'd be waxing nostalgic about expeditions into The Mysterious Tower, and articles would have written in Dragon mag concerning the "Lost spellbooks of Tsathzar Rho".  Hell, if Rappan Athuk was released 25 years ago, it would universally be acknowledged as the greatest dungeon crawl of all time.  A lot of the original "letter" series modules were pretty weak, a byproduct of being converted tournaments, but we love them because they are what most of us grew up playing, and all our old stories start out with a common beginning: What idiot died in the Tomb of Horrors, how many giants your dwarf fighter killed in the G-series, what happened the first time you ran up against the Drow, etc.  A lot of the stuff released now for 3rd edition is of far superior quality; but it's for 3rd edition, so we detest it, natch.  I wonder what the reaction would be if all the DCC series (not just the special 12.5 gencon version last year) were re-relased in 1st edition format?  Probably sell outs across the board.
 We all have our "classic" module that we didn't like, yet someone out there lists it as their favorite.  For me and mine, it was C2....so universally despised, it's the only first edition module I've only run one single time, and afterwards it was panned so unmercifully by my original gaming group that I retired it forever.  When I pull it our ocassionally and look it over, I can't find a single compelling reason to ever give it another shot....

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:50 am 
 

Badmike wrote:

 We all have our "classic" module that we didn't like, yet someone out there lists it as their favorite.  For me and mine, it was C2....so universally despised, it's the only first edition module I've only run one single time
Mike B.


I wish you guys would type the name of the module rather than the call signs.  Now I have to go look up C2 :x


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:29 am 
 

Setting aside sentimentality if possible, what would you guys consider the best classic module(s)?

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:35 am 
 

In no particular order, in my opinion:

Tomb of Horrors
Keep on the Borderlands
Castle Amber
Ravenloft
Descent into the Depths of the Earth
Lost Tamoachan
Assassin's Knot
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
The Village of Hommlet
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
White Plume Mountain
Queen of the Demonweb Pits
The Giant Series
Dark Tower
Caverns of Thracia
Tegel Manor
Treasure Hunt
Isle of Dread
Isle of the Ape
Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
Frank Mentzer's R-Series (I forget all the names of them, individually)

(Probably more I'm forgetting, but I'm tired.)


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:04 am 
 

Keith the Thief wrote:Setting aside sentimentality if possible, what would you guys consider the best classic module(s)?

Thanks,
Keith


I think every single letter series module would have it's supporters.  The problem would be in defining exactly what "classic" is.  I suppose if you limit the dates of 1977-1982 or so that would give you a good sampling, but what is the criteria? But what I think is interesting is your definition of setting aside semtimentality!!!! :wink:   Everything we love about these modules is so inevitably drenched in sentimentality, we can't possible separate that from the reality that a lot of the early modules really weren't very good, and wouldn't hold up a bit today if re-released in any sort of format (1st, 2nd or 3rd edition).  The G-series would be impossible to release in it's orignal form...some of the free adventures I got on Free Game day are longer than G1, yet G1 was one of the funnest modules I ever ran.  The 25th anniversary remake Against the Giants: Liberation of Geoff is actually a very good example of what this sort of product would have to resemble if released in "modern" times.

However, intellectually, I know that G1 isn't a "best" module in any sense except for the memories associated with it, and my own fleshing out of the same.  What would be interesting is to find someone (or several someones) who started gaming in, say, 1995 and find out what they considered the best classic modules based on nothing more than playability.  We demand so much more now than we did 30 years ago... I"m reminded of comics, which I also collect.  Some of the stuff relased 30-40 years ago is pretty awful...compared to today's comics hyper-realism, in both plot, characterization and dialogue, and something I rather enjoy.  Yet there is so much nostalgia attached to the early Spiderman for me, for example, which I first ran into from the artwork of Steve Ditko in Marvel Tales reprints.  To me, the early TSR modules fit the same mold.

Using this as my guide, I wouldn't be embarrassed to rerun S1, U1-3, B1-2, I1, L1, N1. WG4.  The G-series seems rather anti-climatic now with the overuse of the obiquitous drow; T1 seems rather quaint; the C series seems rather pointless (they run like tournament modules, announcing their tournament module origins). S2 seems incredibly contrived.  The A-series as written is the original Railroad.  L2 absolutely doesn't work at all anymore (it's a long story, trust me, I tried to run it not that long ago and it's so broken it require herculean effort to keep it all together). S4 looks more and more like a monster hotel (but I've always loved it regardless).
  The D-series still intrigues and interests me as stand alone encounters than can be transported to anyone's underdark campaign, plus they all leave a lot of room for DM innovation. I haven't run S3 in many years, I find myself flipping through it wondering how it would go as a one-off. I think the entireity of T1-4 is the apex of the "classic" module setting for D&D, epic in scope and presentation.  
  I realize this post was all over the place...but in a world where someone will tell you their favorite modules are N2, I7 and A1, clearly there is no consensus except for nostalgia.

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:28 am 
 

serleran wrote:In no particular order, in my opinion:

Tomb of Horrors
Keep on the Borderlands
Castle Amber
Ravenloft
Descent into the Depths of the Earth
Lost Tamoachan
Assassin's Knot
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
The Village of Hommlet
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
White Plume Mountain
Queen of the Demonweb Pits
The Giant Series
Dark Tower
Caverns of Thracia
Tegel Manor
Treasure Hunt
Isle of Dread
Isle of the Ape
Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
Frank Mentzer's R-Series (I forget all the names of them, individually)

(Probably more I'm forgetting, but I'm tired.)


I think what was interesting about what Keith stated was that he added "without sentimentality".  That means just judging the modules on their inherent playability or re-playability.  Frankly, a lot of the above modules just aren't very well put together and shouldn't be on anyone's list...unless nostalgia is included.  And I'm interested in seeing what people would say should nostalgia be left behind.  Technically, what classic modules are put together so well you could run it today for say a bunch of 20 year olds without lots of eye rolling, rules declarations from the DM such as "because I told you so" or "That's just he way it is in this adventure", and something that will hold interest.  

Having said this, I agree with a lot of these.  Apologies to Frank Mentzer, but the R-series runs like a series of tournament modules, which they are (and they run admirably that way, I've run R1 on more than one ocassion). I tried to shoehorn these into a campaign; it was difficult and they had the wrong tone.  I ran them later with the generated characters, as one-offs, and they were Excellent!  Isle of the Ape reminds me of what Ambrose Bierce said about Oakland...There is no "there" there.  The characters get transported to an exotic location, battle munchkinized foes and random encounters and not a dungeon or castle or ruin in sight.  About as untraditional a dungeon crawl as I ever remember! I remember reading this when it came out, saying "Wow, that was interesting", and setting it aside for about 10 years or so.....not a very good "classic" adventure I feel.
  L2 Assassin's Knot just doesn't work, if it ever did. Maybe the group I DM'ed were just super geniuses, but they broke the adventure so quick it wasn't even funny...I'm not even sure if anyone in the group took DAMAGE as they very quickly jumped past all the intricate plot twists and devices to find the murderer.  Not to mention the entire plot hinges on a unique magic item belonging to the main villain, something I've always thought cheapens an adventure or comic book villain (aha, I have EXACTLY THE RIGHT MAGICAL DEVICE that will thwart your plans!!!) I would rank this adventures re-playability as....Nil.
 Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia are severely under rated due to being hard to find even back in the day, but would be fun to run even today I feel.  Tegel Manor, not so much.  It has not stood the tests of time (monster hotel).

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:37 am 
 

I don't agree. I do not have sentimental value for 99% of those modules, since I have only used two of them, ever, as far as something actually used in my game as-written. The rest I ripped apart, stole something from, and added in small doses, but, they made my list because they had the most "stuff" to steal. I've never been a fan of using modules (I prefer to create my own adventures), but as supplemental ideas for sheer inspiration, the ones I listed are the ones I find to be most useful. Its that simple.

Some things are simply good for their ability to be mined for ideas. Not because they play well. Not because they are written well. They're just good resources.

Oh, and of the two I have used, I would use them without hesitation, if I had an inkling to, and it made sense for the game I'm running.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:23 am 
 

serleran wrote:I don't agree. I do not have sentimental value for 99% of those modules, since I have only used two of them, ever, as far as something actually used in my game as-written. The rest I ripped apart, stole something from, and added in small doses, but, they made my list because they had the most "stuff" to steal. I've never been a fan of using modules (I prefer to create my own adventures), but as supplemental ideas for sheer inspiration, the ones I listed are the ones I find to be most useful. Its that simple.

Some things are simply good for their ability to be mined for ideas. Not because they play well. Not because they are written well. They're just good resources.

Oh, and of the two I have used, I would use them without hesitation, if I had an inkling to, and it made sense for the game I'm running.


If we are talking about resources, I can point to both Harn products (for their accurate historical representations of castles and villages) and MERP products (such incredible backgrounds).  I steal from these quite a bit myself.  Also a lot of non-tsr stuff (The Companions and Midkemia come to mind) have some really good, well thought out and detailed settings.

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:32 am 
 

I have either played or run 12 of the modules on Serleran's list but in some cases it was nearly 30 years ago.
Memory has a way of playing tricks on you, so some I remember fondly and others have faded away as being not notable at all.
At the time they were released the hobby was still fresh enough that some of what is considered "weak" now was revolutionary at the time.
That said, I don't think that you could create a definitive list of "best". That depends on DM'ing skills of fleshing out encounters on the fly and role-playing NPC's.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 10:47 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
I think every single letter series module would have it's supporters.  The problem would be in defining exactly what "classic" is.  I suppose if you limit the dates of 1977-1982 or so that would give you a good sampling, but what is the criteria? But what I think is interesting is your definition of setting aside semtimentality!!!! :wink:   Everything we love about these modules is so inevitably drenched in sentimentality, we can't possible separate that from the reality that a lot of the early modules really weren't very good, and wouldn't hold up a bit today if re-released in any sort of format (1st, 2nd or 3rd edition).  The G-series would be impossible to release in it's orignal form...some of the free adventures I got on Free Game day are longer than G1, yet G1 was one of the funnest modules I ever ran.  The 25th anniversary remake Against the Giants: Liberation of Geoff is actually a very good example of what this sort of product would have to resemble if released in "modern" times.

However, intellectually, I know that G1 isn't a "best" module in any sense except for the memories associated with it, and my own fleshing out of the same.  What would be interesting is to find someone (or several someones) who started gaming in, say, 1995 and find out what they considered the best classic modules based on nothing more than playability.  We demand so much more now than we did 30 years ago... I"m reminded of comics, which I also collect.  Some of the stuff relased 30-40 years ago is pretty awful...compared to today's comics hyper-realism, in both plot, characterization and dialogue, and something I rather enjoy.  Yet there is so much nostalgia attached to the early Spiderman for me, for example, which I first ran into from the artwork of Steve Ditko in Marvel Tales reprints.  To me, the early TSR modules fit the same mold.

Using this as my guide, I wouldn't be embarrassed to rerun S1, U1-3, B1-2, I1, L1, N1. WG4.  The G-series seems rather anti-climatic now with the overuse of the obiquitous drow; T1 seems rather quaint; the C series seems rather pointless (they run like tournament modules, announcing their tournament module origins). S2 seems incredibly contrived.  The A-series as written is the original Railroad.  L2 absolutely doesn't work at all anymore (it's a long story, trust me, I tried to run it not that long ago and it's so broken it require herculean effort to keep it all together). S4 looks more and more like a monster hotel (but I've always loved it regardless).
  The D-series still intrigues and interests me as stand alone encounters than can be transported to anyone's underdark campaign, plus they all leave a lot of room for DM innovation. I haven't run S3 in many years, I find myself flipping through it wondering how it would go as a one-off. I think the entireity of T1-4 is the apex of the "classic" module setting for D&D, epic in scope and presentation.  
  I realize this post was all over the place...but in a world where someone will tell you their favorite modules are N2, I7 and A1, clearly there is no consensus except for nostalgia.

Mike B.


Yeah but Mike, why does every one else have to follow your standards and criteria for what makes a great module?  I am not trying to be a dick, but it seems to me that you are kind of acting like your own personal opinions for what makes a module great are the ones that everyone should have to apply to what makes a module great.  Most old school gamers prefer their modules to be pretty bare bones, so I am not sure where you can categorically say that they are wrong.  I can also tell you for sure that a large portion of people(particularly old school gamers) who play that do not want to have their hands held through each and every portion of a module, as a matter of fact its quite the opposite.

This is one of the main reasons that so many 1st edition gamers hated 99% of the stuff that was put out in 2nd edition, because of that.  I mean you are certainly entitled to your own opinion as to what makes a module "great" and "more playable", but then again so does everyone else and I am not sure how any ones opinion is more right than the others.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:18 am 
 

Nah, Mike's pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Brian. ;)

As far as their printed text is concerned, the early TSR letter modules just aren't very good.  Try rereading any of them -- there's not a lot there.  Not by today's standards, not by standards back then.  

What makes them great are one or more of the following:

1.  the extra work done by inidividual DMs (once given the text as seed material, granted)
2.  the (sometimes false) sense of a shared experience across groups
3.  nostalgia for early gaming experiences (sometimes misremembered)

I'm not saying they aren't great, because clearly they are.  But their greatness can't fairly be attributed to anything specifically written in the text.  Later TSR modules (mid-eighties onward) had more substance.

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:20 am 
 

If we are talking about resources, I can point to both Harn products (for their accurate historical representations of castles and villages) and MERP products (such incredible backgrounds).  I steal from these quite a bit myself.  Also a lot of non-tsr stuff (The Companions and Midkemia come to mind) have some really good, well thought out and detailed settings.


None of which are modules, or TSR products, and hence, off topic for the question asked. One could technically argue the JG stuff is not supposed to be listed, either, though I believe they still had official licensing then. If we open it up to all "old school materials" I would mention entire game lines, and several other books... but, when discussing modules, I think my list fits. I know it does, for me. :)


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 11:21 am 
 

deimos3428 wrote:Nah, Mike's pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Brian. ;)

As far as their printed text is concerned, the early TSR letter modules just aren't very good.  Try rereading any of them -- there's not a lot there.  Not by today's standards, not by standards back then.  



So my opinion is wrong. :?   Actually, I have reread through quite a few modules over the last 9 to 12 months and I completely disagee, sorry.

deimos3428 wrote:I'm not saying they aren't great, because clearly they are.  But their greatness can't fairly be attributed to anything specifically written in the text.  Later TSR modules (mid-eighties onward) had more substance.


You are contradicting yourself here. They are not great, but they are great.  As far as post 1985 modules go, do you mean substance or do you mean filler. Lots of people are not particularly enamored with the BS filler that those modules included.  If I wanted a novel with a predetermined storyline and outcome I would have bought one.....


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:08 pm 
 

There's no such thing as a "wrong" opinion.
Out of the classic modules, N1, L1 and ToEE appear to me to be three of the best. There are many unconnected areas to explore, and the party is pretty much free to go and do whatever they wish. And at any time the party can say "fuck this" and leave.
I've never really used railroading; it's unrealistic and not much fun for anyone involved.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:10 pm 
 

I should add that waht I think makes a "great" module is sturdy bones and the flexibility for the DM to flesh it out as he sees fit.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:10 pm 
 

I would make an important distinction here.  

It's not that the early mods were great.  It's that the great mods were early ones.  Clearly, B1 & B3 were early, but not great.  All of the great ones, however, were early.  Like the G & D series, S1 & S2, the tourney versions of C1 & C2, etc.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:21 pm 
 

deimos3428 wrote:Nah, Mike's pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Brian. ;)

As far as their printed text is concerned, the early TSR letter modules just aren't very good.  Try rereading any of them -- there's not a lot there.  Not by today's standards, not by standards back then.  

What makes them great are one or more of the following:

1.  the extra work done by inidividual DMs (once given the text as seed material, granted)
2.  the (sometimes false) sense of a shared experience across groups
3.  nostalgia for early gaming experiences (sometimes misremembered)

I'm not saying they aren't great, because clearly they are.  But their greatness can't fairly be attributed to anything specifically written in the text.  Later TSR modules (mid-eighties onward) had more substance.


Deimos said it better than I ever could without my typical long winded pontificating.  The early modules were great because WE made them that way....not through any skill in writing.  I submit to you a top ten list of Dungeon magazine modules...All of which are better written than anything TSR ever produced between 1977-1982.  Are they better MODULES?  That's the subjective part.  Objectively, it's no contest: The Mud Sorceror's Tomb is a hundred times better written than, say, Tomb of Horrors.  Subjectively, everyone that played D&D in the late 70s took a crack at S1, and everyone has their own nostalgia tinged memories of that period of time.  

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:31 pm 
 

See, again, you are incorrect, at least as it relates to me. I didn't start playing until well after the "classic period" of D&D, seeing as I was only but being born when the game was first created, and a mere 3 when the "classics" were developed. So, I look at the entire OAD&D line with an entirely different set of eyes because I was used to the 2e way. There is no way nostalgia can be considered the factor there, since I had already owned ToEE before I even saw T1 alone... I just preferred T1 more, because it had less. :) I do like ToEE though...

But, since I didn't play in 1977-1980, I guess I'm just not old enough to have an opinion. ;)


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:37 pm 
 

I think UK 2&3, The Sentinel and The Gauntlet are excellent modules.  A lttle bit of everything.  I think they'd probably translate pretty well to todays game.

  


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:45 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:
Deimos said it better than I ever could without my typical long winded pontificating.  The early modules were great because WE made them that way....not through any skill in writing.  I submit to you a top ten list of Dungeon magazine modules...All of which are better written than anything TSR ever produced between 1977-1982.  Are they better MODULES?  That's the subjective part.  Objectively, it's no contest: The Mud Sorceror's Tomb is a hundred times better written than, say, Tomb of Horrors.  Subjectively, everyone that played D&D in the late 70s took a crack at S1, and everyone has their own nostalgia tinged memories of that period of time.  

Mike B.


Can you tell me in terms of something that doesn't contain your own opinion that makes it better?  Unless you are going to start quoting sales numbers, in which case one may have sold better than the other, then you can't.  Even if you were going to quote sales figures, I'd put S1 up against any dungeon magazine adventure no matter how great that you think it is......

Its all a matter of what someone is looking for that makes one thing better than the other, so its all subjective and none of its objective.


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