A3 – Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords
After interrupting the slavers’ operation in the Drachensbrag Hills in A2: Secret of the Slaver’s Stockade, the adventurers have tracked the slavers back to their hidden city beyond the mountains. They must infiltrate the city and take down the slave lords.
Head of the Snake – Some organization is causing problems for the locals. The players must track the bad guys back to the source and eliminate the threat.
A system of caves that lead to a lake in a volcanic crater that hides the slaver’s island. The remainder of the adventure takes place in and below the island city of Suderham.
In the salt caves, the primary opponents are gnolls. The city is filled with human slavers and many of the encounters are random making the number difficult to calculate. After the adventure moves to the sewers, the monsters vary wildly.
piercer (30), gnoll (28), bugbear (8), slave lord (5), minotaur lizards (4), ogre (4), wight (4), giant rat (3), leucrotta (2), giant spider (2), gelatinous cube (2), giant constrictor snake (2), leprechaun (1), hyenadon (1), storoper (1), rust monster (1), illusionist (1), flesh golem (1), killer mimic (1), hell hound (1), minotaur (1), shambling mound (1)
• Wimpell Frump (p 6), a “lackluster illusionist” hired by the slave lords to protect the entrance to their hidden city. He has used an illusion to disguise himself as Yeenoghu and bend the gnolls in the area to his will.
• Feelta (p 19), a eye-patched buccaneer and leader of the slave lords.
• Ajakstu (p 19), a slave lord and magic user with power magic items. He has been spying on the adventurers with his crystal ball so the slave lords are fully aware of their approach.
• Nerelas (p 19), a slave lord and assassin with a penchant for back stabbing with the help of a potion of invisibility.
• Brother Milerjoi (p 20), monk from the Scarlet Brotherhood.
• Mordrammo (p 20), chief priest of the Temple of the Earth Dragon.
The adventure plays out across 3 locations; salt caves, a hidden city and the sewers beneath the city.
CAVES OF DRACHENSGRAB
Following the maps discovered in A2: Secret of the Slaver’s Stockade, the adventurers trek to the Drachensgrab Mountains in pursuit of the slave lords. They discover a salt cave that leads to the secret city.
• A4. Hyenadon Feeding Time (p 4) – Gnolls throw bloody meat at the players to get the hyenadon, giant dog-like creatures, to attack. If I was a player, I’d throw the meat back at the gnolls.
• A5. The Curtain of Blue Fire (p 4) – A magical blue barrier bisects a room filled with an enormous pool of white goo (no bukake jokes please). The barrier causes electrical damage, but the goo insulates against the effect. One can swim under the surface of the goo to avoid the magic barrier. The goo can also be breathed like air. If an adventurer decides to sink to the bottom of the pool and walk across to the other side of the room, they will walk into an invisible sword known as the Sword of Lyons. The sword is a pretty amazing sword. The blade is invisible. Then the sword is sheathed, the wearer is invisible. Once the sword is drawn, the invisibility ends. It seems like every room has some sort of easter egg in 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I wonder how many people in the history of running this module actually stumbled upon this sword without any prior knowledge.
• A7. The Storoper (p5) – A statue in the room is actually a stone roper or “storoper.” This version of the roper can turn party members against each other. I like that this creature is totally unique to this adventure.
• A9. The Throne Room (p 6) – This is a very entertaining encounter that matches the scene in Erol Otus’s excellent back cover art. Wimpell Frump the illusionist, disguised as Yeenoghu foul god of gnolls, sits upon a magic thrones that power his illusions. The party is attacked by an ankylosaurus and a great number of gnolls and ghouls. The illusions hide the real threat; a rust monster. Frump’s real gnoll guards hide behind pillars taking pot shots at the distracted party. The illusionist has strategically positioned himself behind a glass wall that stops arrows and normal missile attacks. Frump flees into a secret passage if the battle turns sour for him. The throne contains a hidden cache containing a key to the secret door and a map to the secret city of Suderham.
THE HIDDEN CITY OF SUDERHAM
The isle of the slavers, also known as the Aerie, is situated in the middle of a lake hidden in a volcanic crater. On the island, an extinct volcanic peak called Mount Flamenblut rises over the hidden city of Suderham. The author warns the DM to restrict the players movement to Suderham. The rest of the island is explored in the next module, A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords.
• The introductory text (p 8) does a good job of setting up a ticking time-bomb scenario. The party captures some aristocrats, ties them up and steals their papers. Their fine robes fit over the adventurers armor. Entering the town as dusk gives the players extra cover. They need to find the entrance to the subterranean passages beneath the city before dawn.
• The cryptic clues that are supposed to lead the players to the Sign of the Rose house of ill repute are opaque. At location B29, the sage will give the players a book entitled The Illumination of the Rose for 100gp. The sage offers no further explanation. The stable boy in B44 if offered 50gp will whisper, “There is a secret passage! It is in the rows of rouge!” I just gave you more fucking gold pieces than most people make in a year. Do you think you can you be a little more specific?
• The city overall is poorly designed. Of the 68 locations in the city, 28 are literally closed. Several others have nothing useful or notable within. Half the buildings on the map are closed! Why bother with numbering and listing a description?
• B13. House of Ill Repute: Sign of the Rose (p 11) – The secret passage leading to the catacombs is located in oddball brothel. While the cathouse next door is packed to the rafters with townsfolk and merriment, the Rose has no patrons whatsoever. Do the locals know something? Maybe all the girls have incurable VD. The entrance to the undercity is via a trapdoor hidden under a bed in an empty room. The stable boy should have said, “Seek ye the saddest room in the lonliest whorehouse.” And for 50gp, he should be waiting in the room ready to toss the barbarian’s salad and open the trap door with his teeth.
• B19. Denhow’s Pub ‘n’ Grub (p 12) – Ayares the Cutpurse is a horrible pickpocket. He attempts to pick a players pockets and fails. If the adventurers give him a hard time, his brigand friends at the the bar back him up. Great way to add conflict to the story. The adventurers are trying to remain low key. Is it in their best interest to start up a brawl?
Two equally difficult to locate passages lead the adventurers to the catacombs. The party confronts a cavalcade of classic monsters before squaring off with the slave lords.
• This section is referred to as both sewers and catacombs. There seems to be no unifying theme to the creatures in this section. The author’s sense of ecology in the Caves of Drachensgrab is totally abandoned in this section, but there are some interesting situations.
• C3. The Killer Mimic’s Lair (p 16) – The mimic traps the characters with some sort of sticky trap, forms its tendrils and starts bludgeoning its victim. What can I say? I’m a sucker for mimics.
• C5. Minotaur Menace (p 17) – The minotaur encounter takes over several rooms. I like the idea of a single monster fight taking place spread out across multiple rooms.
• C6. Cunning Gelatinous Cubes (p 18) – The only thing I love more than one gelantinous cube is two gelatinous cubes. A pit trap causes adventurers to fall on top of a gelatinous cube. Once kill the cube is killed, there are some shiny magic items in the bottom of the pit, including an ioun stone. While the party is divying up the spoils, another gelatinous cube jumps into the pit from above.
• C9. Council Chamber of the Slave Lords (p 19) – The final battle of the module takes place in this chamber. In tournament play or at the DM’s discretion, the writer’s intent is that the players are sandbagged to leading the story into the next module, A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. The slave lords show up again in the next adventure.
Please add your own comments on the module below. Memorable moment’s from actual games would be great too. Hopefully, these annotations will become a resource for future game designers’ study.