The 10 Best Classic D&D Modules I Ever Played #8: Michael Moorcock Wants His Sword Back

DMS2 White Plume Mountain

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.

As Jim Morrison said, this is the end, my friends. I’ve reached the bottom of the stack, and come to my all-time favorite module. I’m not saying it’s the best. Picking a “best” is very subjective, and subjective is something we gamers know a lot about. All I’m saying here is that this is the module I had the most fun playing and running back in the old days; the one that holds the most memories of hilarious mayhem. Yes, race fans, it’s S2 – White Plume Mountain.

Search ye far or search ye near
You’ll find no trace of the three
Unless you follow Instructions clear
For the weapons abide with me.


North past forest, farm and furrow

You must go to the feathered mound

Then down away from the sun you’ll burrow

Forget life, forget light, forget sound.

WPM was for me the amusement park of dungeons. Long story/short, 1,300 years before, a wacky mage named Keraptis decided to set up shop in the magma tunnels under the mountain, along with his “fanatically loyal company of renegade gnomes.” After vanishing in the caves, his name fades from memory… until now. Three very powerful weapons have been stolen from three very wealthy collectors, and a note was left signed with Keraptis’ symbol.

So, somewhat like the A-Team or the Equalizer (or Knight Rider, or Airwolf), you’ve been hired to help when no one else has been able. Your party of adventurers (a mixed group, between 5th and 10th level) find their way to WPM (the “feathered mound” of the poem), and with a little luck, can discover a cave leading downwards, with a secret door at the bottom. Then, a winding staircase takes you down to your first encounter: a rather mangy-looking gynosphinx, who riddles you this-

Round she is, yet flat as a board
Altar of the Lupine Lords
Jewel on black velvet, pearl in the sea
Unchanged, but e’erchanging, eternally

That’s one’s so easy, even a half-drunk halfling (is that redundant?) could answer it. But you’ve already been lulled into a false sense of security, because the fun has just begun. The dungeon is actually a tri-plex. There were three weapons stolen: Wave, a +3 intelligent trident that confers the following powers – fish commanding, water breathing, underwater action, cube of force, telepathy, and on natural 20, dehydration, which would drain half the target’s remaining hitpoints; Whelm, a +3 intelligent hammer of stunning that also detects gold, gems, and goblins; and the one that gave all the geeks with anti-paladins asthma attacks – Blackrazor, a +3 intelligent, chaotic neutral sword that would suck souls. Yes, it was a blatant rip-off of Elric’s Stormbringer, but it was still way cool. Each weapon had its own section of the dungeon with traps and monsters protecting it, so that once you found one, you had to come back to a central point, and go find the next one.

A few things to remember in White Plume Mountain:

  • The cavern with boiling mud in the bottom, and wobbly disks hanging from chains is just cruel. And the geysers going off. And the slipping. If only someone could fly or teleport! Hey, magic-user! Take me away!
  • Whelm is protected by a Vampire in a room with permanent darkness cast on it. “You hear a noise-” “I SWING MY SWORD AT IT (rolls die) CRITICAL HIT!” “You have struck your cleric with your sword, roll 3d6, double it, and add your strength modifiers.” “D’OH!”
  • Remember that wild spinning corridor from The Six Million Dollar Man that lead to some sort of alien hide-out guarded by Bigfoot? It’s here.
  • Wave is guarded by a giant crab in a room that is basically a bubble inside a tank of boiling water. The crab knows better than to poke the walls. Are you that smart? Roll…
  • There is a corridor that is, in effect, an induction stove. Think about that word: induction.
  • Oh yes, the frictionless room. Remember calling for the magic-user to fly or teleport? Won’t work here. Going to be a few bruises before you get through that one.
  • And, of course, the terraced room of monsters. Each terrace holds nasty monsters, alternating with water or dry-land creatures: giant crayfish, giant scorpions, sea lions, and three manticores. And once you get through them, there’s the doughty halfling guarding Blackrazor. Wha-? A halfling? Guarding the best treasure? This’ll be a piece of cake! Get ‘im! Um, hey, why is it so cold in here? 8d8 damage? From a halfling? OUCH!

And in the end, if you’ve succeeded, your party now has some very sweet weapons, and it’ll be up to you to bribe your DM to let you keep them. Unless your DM is a sadist, and then as you’re trying to leave, a pair (or even four) efreet show up to see you off. If that happens, I suggest you leave less than a 15% gratuity, because the service here sucks.

And that’s it, folks! As a parting gift, check out this slideshow to see a few more images from the module, and as a special bonus, a custom encounter page I wrote for the module many, many years ago. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ken is a husband and father from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as civil engineer. He became the Publisher of GeekDad in 2007, and the owner in 2010. He also wrote the NYT bestselling GeekDad series of project books for parents and kids to share.