Friday, July 15, 2011

Re-Thinking the Slave Pits of the Undercity

Module A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity
I now turn to my favorite TSR Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module - Slave Pits of the Undercity. I have talked about it at length in a previous post, but today I'm going to delve deeper into some elements I would use to change the adventure to suit my tastes now; some of which are driven by certain aesthetics and game-play experiences.

I have brought the module out for play for a number of players for the first and second editions of the D&D game, but not the third (or its spiritual successor, the Pathfinder RPG). I thought about leaving the module 'as is', but the more I think about it I want to change the physical aspects of the location for clarity. I'm not so much worried about the cast of monsters.

The adventure takes place in temple ruins and a underground level, which includes part of old sewer system as well as some new construction (such as the iron-barred cages of the slave pits). In my mind, the upper level of the temple and ancillary buildings were made for the dungeon-minded. It seems like spaces between buildings/gardens/etc. are more corridor-like than open to the sky. The buildings seem to lack any windows. Also, I'm not quite sure what parts of the compound were actually under the same roof - they certainly made for some odd-shaped buildings if they did. Were the characters in passageways or paths between very close structures? What if I just re-imagined the the place on a historical model?

So, I think I've decided to incorporate the core features and encounters of the module into a redesigned space/series of spaces. As the module's artwork strongly suggests a sense of Greco-Roman Antiquity, I thought I would work in elements of actual classical temples and early medieval monasteries (esp. Eastern European and Coptic designs). Google, of course, is a great help here. I have to say I think I hit the goldmine with some floorplans under the Abbey listing in Wikipedia. I've seen them round and about over the years.

One thing I noticed in favor of the windowless concept of the original upper level of the temple buildings is that it is not totally out of line in comparison to the floor plans and 3D renderings I found in my research. However, I think we are probably talking more about pagan temples (ie. think the rectangular, column-girded sites, with the Parthenon serving as a great example) and the outside walls of the self-sufficient monasteries/abbeys. I'd have to say the module's temple grounds remind more of a medieval abbey compound with classical elements. Finally, after taking a look at the St. Gall monastery plans, there seems to be a number of odd-shaped buildings there as well.

Ultimately, I think what I want to do here is create a gaming area where the adventurers can think well beyond tunnel crawling, get out in the open (probably to their chagrin), and maybe scale a wall or two for sneaky entrances or escapes. Also, the slavers will likely need some adjustments to how they guard avenues of approach to the site's entrances.

To that end, that leaves me with redesigning the maps or using other sources. I've thought about bringing in some of Paizo's flip-mats for the occasion. I think a good medieval village inn or monastery with a courtyard might really work here. More later when I make up my mind...

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