The 10 Best Classic D&D Modules I Ever Played #2: A Fishy Mystery, and a Three-for-All

DMU2 Danger at Dunwater

We were digging through the storage shed recently when I should chance across the dusty stack of old Dungeons & Dragons modules I’ve had with me for… well, for a very long time.  For all the GeekDads who have gamed, as I scan and read through these, I’ll post them for your enjoyment and comment, if you remember them.

Just so the folks reading these know, I think the list is going to go to eleven, in classic Spinal Tap style.  And, my apologies to those who have been asking for it, but I don’t have Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  If I find it in the future, I promise I’ll come back and to a follow-up to this series.

First up this time, the second of the Saltmarsh series: U2 – The Joshua Tree.  Um, no, I mean, Danger at Dunwater!

Recently, the town council of Saltmarsh, a small fishing town, hired a party of relatively inexperiences adventurers to investigate mysterious goings-on in the Haunted House, a decaying mansion on the cliff top near town.  Having successfully routed a band of smugglers using the house as a base, the adventurers turns to the sea-going side of the operation and managed to board the smuggers’ ship Sea Ghost.  They were able to defeat the smugglers aboard and could safely assume that the smuggling operation was quashed.  However the unexpected presence of board of three lizard men, the perusal of some documents, and the discovery of a secret cache of arms and armor led them to deduce that the smugglers were running equipment to a colony of lizard men.  The town council of Saltmarsh decides to hire the adventurers to scout out the lizard men, and return with information that should hopefully allow the townspeople to prepare themselves for whatever is to come.

Ahh, sequels!  This one really needs to be run directly after The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, as it benefits from the earlier continuity.  Plus, if your magic user picked up the Pseudo-Dragon from the last adventure, he might not get himself killed at the first sign of melee combat.

Things to remember about Danger at Dunwater:

  • The Lizard Men aren’t bad, the were just drawn that way.  Actually, if you think of them as sort of like Jar Jar’s people in Phantom Menace, you’ll see they’re just a simple folks, struggling to survive.  Or, you’ll just want to kill them all, which would be fun, but would serious impact your alignment in the future.
  • There is a Treasure Room.  If you enter the Treasure Room without searching for traps, you deserve what happens.  If you find the floor trap, get to the chest, and try to open it without checking for traps again, you not only deserve what happens, you should consider quitting pencil-and-papers RPGs altogether, and trying canasta, or cribbage.  They don’t hurt as much.
  • If you do end up killing all the lizard men and looting their lair, when you return to Saltmarsh, you’ll find out you just, in effect, killed everyone in Minas Tirith a day before the armies of Sauron arrive.  Oops, sorry may not fix it.
  • The module has extra credit!  If you were dumb enough to kill some lizard men, but smart enough to stop and make a deal, an honor-debt will be required of you.  The lizard men ask you to take care of a small pest problem they have.  Something about a giant crocodile.  And a small dragon.  Nothing to worry about, really!

As with its predecessor, Dunwater is another module where the challenge is not what it seems, which is always fun.  A little understanding and compassion can go a long way towards avoiding deadly combat.  Sadly, you don’t always end up with as much loot that way, but… oh, whatever.

DMG123 Against the Giants

It’s THREE, THREE, count them THREE MODULES IN ONE!

G1-2-3 – Against the Giants folded together three modules into one super-sized, epic adventure.  First, there was The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief:

Giants have been raiding the lands of men in large bands, with giants of different sorts in the marauding groups.  Death and destruction have been laid heavily upon every place these monsters have visited.  This has caused great anger in high places, for life and property loss means failure of the vows of noble rulers to protect the life and goods of each and every subject – and possible lean times for the rulers as well.  Therefore, a party of the most powerful adventurers has been assembled and given the charge to punish the miscreant giants.

Piece of cake, right?  Just charge in, slap a few extra-large wrists, and all will be well again.  Or not.  While the Hill Giant Chief’s place is a pretty easy crash-and-grab, you learn quickly that the problem is a lot bigger (yeah, pun, who cares?) than anyone knew.  Better head back to town and spend some of that loot on Gortex-lined chain mail, because next, you visit The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl:

Some dozens of leagues to the north and west, amidst the tallest mountain peaks, is the stronghold of Grungnur, Lord of Frost Giants.  As frost giants have been amongst those who have been in the reaving bands, the party is to deal with them as the hill giants have been dealt with.  Death and destruction are to be dealt out to the frost giants in the same measure they gave to the peoples below, but the party knows that their most important mission is to garner intelligence as to what or who is behind the unholy alliance of hill, stone, frost, and possible other types of giants as well.  The evil root is deeply grown here, far worse than among the hill giants.

You know it’s going to be fun, when the wandering monsters include winter wolves, ogres, and yeti.  One more giant complex, one more adventure filled with a lot of hard-core combat, and some really excellent treasure.  But it’s never enough, is it?  So, your party will want to go on – or will have discovered the secret passage that will magically transport them to the Hall of the Fire Giant King:

They are about to venture into the hot and smoking barrens which are in effect Muspelheim, the home of the fire giants.  In the vast rocky halls of the fire giant’ doughty liege lord, the dread (pirate Roberts) King Snurre Iron Belly, they hope to find both the answer to the riddle of what or who is behind the strange alliance, as well as great treasure.  Sure here in the stronghold of the fire giants will be encountered the evil genius – or genii – controlling the uprising and planning the well-executed attacks.

Third time pays for all, as they say.  Fire Giants is the end-all, be-all of hack-fests, containing dozens of really, really, really brutal giants plus various hell hounds, chimerae, ettin, cave bears, trolls, gnolls, and other nasties.  Amongst those that can be rescued are an elven princess, two centaurs, a female thief who will jack the party and run at first chance, and a Titan.  Yes, a Titan.  Please have a neutralize poison spell available when you find him.  Please.  It’ll make thing so much easier when you find Snurre himself.

Things to remember when going Against the Giants:

  • Going against the Hill giants is like the seven minutes of shadow practice you get before league bowling starts; you always rolls some strikes, and feel good, but it hasn’t really prepared you for anything.
  • The frost giants don’t have just one white dragon, but two.  And, if you can beat the remorhaz in the dome of ice, there’s a really handy ring of three wishes and (maybe better?) a +2 giant slayer.
  • Once you get to the fire giants, well, remember Bambi Versus Godzilla?  You’re Bambi (though hopefully Bambi with AC -2, and a Thac0 in the single digits).
  • Don’t look into the eye.  If you do, there is an 8% chance each that one of the following will happen: death (bad), insanity (still bad), rage (attack own party – really annoying), fright and weakness (pain in the patoochie), or age 1-20 years (remember not to use the 20-sider you once affectionately nicknamed “old crit” when making that role).

And in the end, is it the giants’ fault?  Nope, not really.  Let’s just say Drizz’t's got some ‘spainin’ to do.  Yes, the Drow were behind the whole thing, and as with so many great stories, there’s more to come if you decide to turn the trilogy into tent-pole franchise, and head on to the D series  modules.  Seeya next time!

About Ken Denmead

Ken is a husband and father from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as civil engineer. He also wrote the NYT bestselling GeekDad series of project books for parents and kids to share.

About Ken Denmead

Ken is a husband and father from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as civil engineer. He also wrote the NYT bestselling GeekDad series of project books for parents and kids to share.

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