Dungeon Magazine #16 (going all the way back to early 1989) has one of best adventures you will find in that magazine in the last days of 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Technically, 2nd Edition had already been released, but I believe the 1st Edition adventures appeared for several of the bi-monthly issues afterward. The game editions were close enough that a little conversion wasn't too much work. But I digress...
So, what was so great about this particular issue? In a word: Vesicant. That's the name of the adventure and the name of its main villain, a young green dragon with a penchant for magic items and an alliance with Scrape, a town of pirates (human, orc, and goblin). That's her on the cover (right), with the magic wand and the arcane blast of some kind. She was small, clever, and vicious. Vesicant relied on tricks and good tactics to take on the 4th-7th level characters that sought her doom. The idea was that if the dragon was removed, the pirates would be easier to handle.
That was another selling point, by the way - the lovely "mid-level" aspect of the adventure. It's when characters are strong enough to take on tougher monsters, but they cannot ignore the low-level monsters either. Once the characters got to 10th level or so, the low-level monsters just weren't challenging anymore - and you lose some taste to the game.
Of course, Scrape was a great place to have a lot of role-playing with cloak & dagger perspectives. Without Scrape, the adventure just would not have made such an impression on me. An engaging urban environ that invites the characters to explore, talk, and fight with its inhabitants is always a plus - and Scrape was one of the best places for that.
The heroes just couldn't storm the town, they had to gather info from the port's power brokers so they pick up enough clues to find the dragon's hidden lair in the hills. The human, orcish, and goblin quarters of the town were fleshed out. There was a lot of follow-up adventures to be had in Scrape if you wanted to play them. Hooks were all over the place - the removal of Scrape's tyrant, the half-orc warlord Yorin and his ogre bodyguards could result in a civil war between the town's factions; the appearance of a duergar slaver indicated some trade relations with the Underdark; and a pair of evil elven mercenaries could have meant anything.
In some ways, Scrape could have worked well as the larger environs of the classic D&D module A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity. I actually used Scrape as part of the Slave Lords' network of outposts.
Much like I reminisce that Dragon #63 was an epiphany of my early gaming days, this magazine did much the same for me when I rediscovered my love for the game after a few years of hiatus.
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