A while back, I reviewed G1: The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, an adventure that launched AD&D’s first real adventure path, and had some really interesting adventure design concepts. The other two adventures in the series – G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and G3: The Hall of the Fire Giant King, are much more conventional dungeon crawls, so they’re worth discussing together.
These adventures are considerably less of an playset that the first adventure – but because these dungeons are settlements rather than ruins that monsters are squatting in, they tactically have to be approached much more differently than a regular crawl, and also get run much more differently from a GM’s standpoint. I’d compare this less to a Hitman level, and more like a level of a game like Tenchu: Stealth Assassins or the original Metal Gear.
That said, there is some definite room in this adventure for adjustment. G2 & G3 both introduce Dragons to the mix, but it doesn’t particularly do much with them in the context of the level environments – they’re just sitting in rooms waiting for the player characters to come in and say “Hi.” The levels are simply not set up in a manner for the Dragons to go out and do anything. In G2, this is explained because the dragons (a mated pair of Whites) are the “Pets” of the Frost Giant Jarl, and they are given both treasure from the giants’ raids, and prisoners that have been brought back to the lair. This is less excusable in G3, where the dragon is an Ancient Red. While older dragons certainly are more likely to be sedentary, it feels off for a Red dragon to effectively let a batch of Fire Giants trap him in his lair by building a their fortress in front of it.
For G2, the easiest way to adjust this would be to basically expand the size of some of the corridors to allow the dragon a route to get to an exit to accompany raiding parties. For G3, because the Dragon is on the bottom of a 3 level dungeon, that is less explainable – you have to get that dragon through a lot of dungeon, meaning you’d either have to introduce a vertical shaft into the dungeon to provide mobility, or provide an egress through the mountain to the outside leading to the Dragon’s lair.
The other issue is that as the series progresses, the number of entrances and routes through the dungeon decreases. Both G2 and G3 have only one way in, but G2 has the route split immediately, with both sides going past enemies, but only one going past guards who can alert the dungeon. G3, on the other hand, has only one route, at first, which takes the party not only past the guards, but also past the great hall and throne room, which – as written, has the King himself present. So, G3 needs some adjustments.
There are a couple possible ways to adjust G3. The first is to find a place to put an alternate entrance into the dungeon that’s accessible to humans and makes for a reasonable alternative to walking through the front door. The second, if the GM wants to get into more monster bookkeeping, is to put together an sort of day-night cycle for the dungeon. Maybe not necessarily getting as granular as “what’s going on at what hours”, but find times where the King is holding court in the Great Hall, and when he’s in his chambers (and things are less busy). Maybe a raid is being launched and there will be less guards present in the fortress, that sort of thing. It mitigates the fact that the party has less alternate routes to approach the problem, by adjusting the other variables of the adventure.
As far as the metaplot goes, G3 more aggressively pushes the plot forward, by bringing the Drow into the narrative more openly. G2 has some links to G3 (a map to the Fire Giants’ fortress in the Jarl’s chamber, the presence of some Fire Giant envoys in the dungeon), but they’re not brought up as aggressively as the hooks from G3 to D1-2 & Q1 are. If I had PCs who read the appropriate Giant language, I might drop some letters solidifying the relationship between the two rulers into the dungeon as well – something that could be missed, but which would point the PCs to the right direction.
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