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   by Kent Kelly

I was asked to describe this item for a friend of mine who has never seen it.  It is quite cheesy, and yet surprisingly filled with lots of interesting “Gygaxian” details on monster lore and descriptions, different clothing and behaviors between the demi-human races, and more.  If you’ve never seen it, this is a quick summary of the book’s story. It offers a few nice glimpses into Greyhawk.  Enjoy!

The adventure begins at none other than the Green Dragon Inn – the legendary City of Greyhawk establishment owned by Sir Robilar himself.  This site dates back to Rob Kuntz’ campaigns of 1972; odds are that the first use of the “You go to the local tavern, looking for fellow adventurers” plot hook was put to use here before it was anywhere else.

It is interesting to note that the City of Greyhawk is not mentioned by name – it simply states, “a busy inn in a town on the shores of the Lake of Unknown Depths”; coupling this location with the Green Dragon, there is no other place that this could be.  Whether Gygax wanted to distance this work from Greyhawk, while still using the setting, is uncertain.

One of the chief party members is Sertern, a cleric of St. Cuthbert.  Whether or not this personage is identical to Serten, of Serten’s Spell Immunity etc., is not known.

Once the group is ready, they set out for “the ruined castle keep” – if this is a matter of obfuscation similar to that for the City of Greyhawk, above, then this can be no other than Castle Greyhawk itself.

Interestingly, their very first encounter occurs when a bulette thunders out of the earth and devours one of the horses.  The illustration reveals that this is a mirror of the event depicted on the first page of the original Monster Manual. (Take a look there!)

Surviving this, they delve into the dungeons below the ruins.  It is very clear that this is a high-level adventure – their first opponent there is a lich.  The nameless lich uses a Power Word Stun to disrupt its enemies, but Sertern manages to turn it.  It is worth noting that the power to turn undead is here called “the prayer of abjuration against the undead” – the earliest instance I know of where the nature of turning is explored by Gygax, however slightly.

In revenge, the lich summons his lover (!), Strovolla the Night Hag, from Hades.  She appears, riding a nightmare, but apparently too late to stop the party, which has fled the encounter and gone deeper.

The fun doesn’t stop.  They plunge from the dungeons into caverns, and cross an old bridge that leads over a black river.  A beholder (!) appears to block their way.  Erghwi, a dwarf fighter, is slain by the Death Stare.  The party fights back and kills the monster.  It is here explained what happens when a beholder dies – it loses its powers of levitation, and crashes down into the river.

Its treasure includes an arcane tablet.  An ever-curious halfling thief reads it (of course!) and vanishes into thin air.  Little known to his friends, he has gone to the ethereal plane, where he befriends a ki-rin and its griffon servant.  He is granted a Pearl of Forseeing which will become instrumental later on.  Clearly the ki-rin wants the party to succeed!

Meanwhile, the rest of the party presses on, believing the halfling to have been lost.  They are attacked by an umber hulk, which they kill.  Sertern uses “laying on hands” (describing clerical healing, which is thus identical to the paladin power) to heal one of the wounded adventurers.  The halfling thief pops back into the party at this time, pearl in tow.

The leader of the party, Parlun Jall, asks the halfling to use the pearl to determine which path they should take.  A dwarf named Trelli Grey-Sides takes it from him, and uses its magic to enter into a trance.

What he sees down the eastern passage is not encouraging – there dwells Demogorgon himself, surround by Vrock and Hezrou demons!  Needless to say, they don’t go that way.

The elf uses the pearl next, to look to the west.  There lies a huge underground fortress, where armies of hobgoblins and gnolls are battling one another.  The party doesn’t wish to be swarmed by hundreds of these creatures, so they don’t go that way either.

So Parlun uses the pearl, to look to the north.  There, he sees an enormous ettin riding a titanothere.  Although they could probably overcome this, Parlun declares that they must find another way.

So Sertern, at last, uses the pearl to look south.  He sees a number of encounters, with a salamander, a su-monster, a quasit, and a xorn.  The xorn looks back at Sertern – it can see him through the trance!  It demands the Pearl of Foreseeing, devours it, and Sertern wakes.  Sertern says they must go south, even though he has foreseen his own death.  They grimly pass on.

Overcoming these monsters (and apparently getting revenge on the xorn), the party moves on, but Sertern does indeed die.  They come upon the lair of a wizard, trapped in an enchanted sleep.  He is freed.  Gratefully, the wizard joins the party, opens a gate to the City of Brass, and summons an efreeti.  He demands that it grant the group three wishes to aid their quest.

We get a nice look at the nastiness of wishes, when the efreeti holds the wizard to the letter of his words.  Wishing to reach the last goal of the quest, the efreeti obeys, and teleports them there.

They find themselves in the lair of Tiamat herself!  She sits atop a treasure hoard beyond compare.  The party is doomed.  The wizard, frantically, uses his second wish, banishing Tiamat back to Hell.  “Send this monster back to Hell’s floor, but keep us safe!”  The nasty efreeti acknowledges this command as two separate wishes.  Tiamat disappears, with all of her treasure as well.  The efreeti, freed from its service, vanishes.

The wizard laments their failure . Parlun Jall is simply glad to be alive, and notes that an ascending passage seems to offer the way out of Greyhawk’s dungeons, and away from the failed quest.  The wizard and the group part ways.

Later, a dwarf named Ukeli finds one last door, and can’t resist opening it.  Inside, they find a colossal hoard of treasure, nearly rivaling Tiamat’s own.  They take as much as they can carry and leave the dungeon.

How did they have such fantastic luck?  Far away, the ki-rin looks on with approval.  Through its manipulations, Tiamat has been banished.  He and the griffon turn their attention elsewhere, leaving the Greyhawk adventurers to their rewards.

There are a few other details of interest in the book, as follows:

  • The mini-game included in the book details the quest to find the Holy Talisman of St. Cuthbert, of “great power against the hordes of Evil threatening to overwhelm the Kingdom of Good.”  Although presented as a throwaway line, this likely relates to the machinations of Iuz later detailed in Dragon magazine and then the Gord novels.

  • Four other adventurers are named – Adelhardt the Paladin, Krylla the Rangeress, Ibli the Dwarven Fighter, and Regalan the Wizard.  This is the only place I know of where Gygax gives the female title of Ranger as Rangeress.

  • The dungeon of the game is entirely different from that in the story – perhaps another level of Greyhawk Castle?  The monsters faced include: another beholder, a type IV demon, giant rats, an ogre mage, an ochre jelly, a gorgon, a giant octopus, a carrion crawler, another xorn, a remorhaz, a giant spider, another umber hulk, and a unique type of super-skeletons, the Iron Skeletons of Grusyin (yet another one of Greyhawk’s mad arch-mages from long ago).

  • This dungeon’s layout pays definite tribute to the Dungeon of Zenopus, as described in the 1978-1979 “blue book” basic rules. Check out the skeleton crypts, and the underwater river and lake in the southwest corner.

All in all, it’s a very interesting look at two different dungeon adventures, presented by Gygax in the glory days of the game. Needless to say, this often-overlooked book is highly recommended.

Thanks to Kent Kelly for this article.

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