Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Slave Pits of the Undercity

This classic Dungeons & Dragons module is still my favorite after nearly 30 years. In the last post I mentioned how much I liked the barbaric orcs. Slave Pits of the Undercity changed my fledgling game in a relatively short time. Orcs made a major appearance in the adventure, serving as mercenaries for the nefarious Slave Lords. This showed me that they could be more than wild, tribal thugs who lived in caves or other wilderness lairs. In Slave Pits they operated out of a desecrated temple (and the sewer tunnels underneath it) in Highport, a veritable "hive of villainy" where evil humanoids ruled. The orcs retained their warband structures, but they were obviously capable of actually dealing with some humans.  This adventure was also the first time I had encountered half-orcs and assassins and prompted me to to collect the AD&D rulebooks as soon as possible. 

Of course the adventure had more going for it than cool orcs. The setting itself was a big plus - the temple and sewers mentioned above. The garrison had a siphon-operated flame throwing cart, which flipped me out; I later learned that the device had historical precedent with similar devices used by the Byzantines and Arabs in the Dark Ages. The module introduced a few new monsters, such as the giant sundew and ant-like aspis (that's one on the cover to the right). A number of tough freelancing monsters also roamed the grounds and tunnels - a basilisk, a wight, harpies, and a doppleganger come to mind. Watch out for the giant weasels!

Finally, a few words about the sample characters included in this module - they were pretty cool. This was back in the day when seven characters was not overloading an adventure - and frankly, you expected a least some of them die. One of the characters, Blodgett the halfling thief, kind of put a new spin on the hobbit archetype. He's the little blonde guy on the cover hanging from the support beams. On the back cover he's waiting to ambush a (half?) orc walking through a doorway. Blodgett seemed to be quite the backstabber.

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